David Ellis from the Avalon Chapter and Angela Carter talk with VOCM On Target host Linda Swain about the proposed LNG development in Placentia Bay that is under Environmental Assessment by the NL Department of Environment and Climate Change. February 9th 2022.
Click on the button below and scroll down the track list to February 9th, Concerns over Grassy Point LNG. Don't get confused - host does start talking about Lewisport project refusal. It shifts to the LNG project
Dear NL Members of Parliament
We have noted with great concern a call for your support of the Bay du Nord oil and gas project in a recent media release by the St. John’s East MP. We agree fully as is stated, that we “must meet our net zero goals” and cap emissions. Our governments (federal and provincial) have rightly committed to do so. However, in our current climate crisis with fossil fuels being the largest contributor to green house gases and global warming, we strongly oppose any further development of Newfoundland & Labrador’s offshore oil fields. The touted “clean oil” at Bay du Nord burns just as lethally for the planet’s survival and will make meeting Canada’s reduced emissions promises impossible.
Last year, climate scientists issued a “code red” warning for humanity to tackle the climate crisis by ending fossil fuel extraction and cutting fossil fuel emissions globally, among other approaches. Months later, the International Energy Agency released a report warning that fossil fuel infrastructure should be considered unwise investment and painted a picture of a global energy future that veers sharply away from fossil fuel extraction and expansion.
Now is the time to invest aggressively and equitably in jobs that can make our communities more sustainable and resilient in the face of major changes coming our way: renewable energies, energy efficiency, public infrastructure, and our communities’ health and wellness. Fossil fuel infrastructure is neither the resilient nor sustainable type of investment we need. NL requires direct government investment to drive the province’s shift to net zero, not subsidies to Equinor.
In communities across Newfoundland and Labrador and right across the country, citizens are urging the government to wind down the fossil fuel industry and end fossil fuel subsidies. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have signed the national parliamentary petition calling on the Prime Minister and Government of Canada to enact Just Transition legislation as promised in 2019.
We have attempted to meet with several of you to solicit support to table our petitions in Parliament. To date none of you have responded but we would appreciate the opportunity to discuss.
We urge you to reject Equinor’s application for the Bay du Nord project. We ask you to show leadership for a planned just transition to a decarbonized economy.
Council of Canadian, Avalon Chapter
In this January 19th, CBC interview, our chairperson, David Ellis, outlines our reasons for opposing the proposed LNG terminal and pipeline in Placentia Bay.
And here is chapter member, Helen Forsey's January 18th Letter to the Telegram on the issue.
The proposal for a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal and pipeline in Placentia Bay is an assault on our ocean, our coastline and our fisheries – part of the oil and gas industry's efforts to continue profiting from its destruction of the planet.
The companies and the government seem to think that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are stunned enough to go along with a project that will intensify climate change and perilously delay the necessary urgent transition to renewable energy sources and reduced energy demand. But we refuse to swallow the lies they are feeding us.
We know that approving the Placentia Bay LNG would be a catastrophe – another in the chain of environmental and financial disasters of which Muskrat Falls is only the most notorious link. The involvement of the Miawpukek First Nation leadership in no way changes the appalling facts.
Public opposition to the LNG project has been vigorously expressed, with detailed and irrefutable reasons, by (among others) the FFAW and the Council of Canadians, both locally and nationally. This despite the insultingly short timeline for public comment – Dec. 30, during the holidays, with a ministerial decision expected mere days later.
If this government has any respect for the people, land and waters of Newfoundland and Labrador, it must reject this outrageous proposal outright.
Blue hydrogen depends on carbon capture and storage (CCS).
CCS is about the fossil fuel industry saving itself rather than saving the planet.
Below is the January 21st letter published in The Independent by our chairperson, David Ellis, detailing our opposition to the Canadian government's 2020 Hydrogen Strategy.
Hydrogen as a fuel will undoubtedly become a vital part of our transition to using clean fuels in order to limit the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the environment.
The Canadian government is supporting the development of hydrogen through its 2020 Hydrogen Strategy as part of its efforts to mitigate climate change. Hydrogen will be especially important in the transportation sector as well as for zero-carbon heat and power in the home and industrial production.
Green hydrogen is produced from water using renewable energy sources such as wind and solar and can be considered as near to carbon-zero as no fossil fuels are burned to supply the electricity required to generate it. There are no harmful byproducts.
Blue hydrogen can be produced directly from methane which is the major component of natural gas. Methane is a compound of carbon and hydrogen (CH4). Separate the two elements and you have hydrogen and carbon. The problem is what do you do with the carbon?
The oil and gas industry has long seen the writing on the wall in respect to the necessary reduction in the use of its products if the planet has a hope of surviving the climate crisis. In 2019 the production and use of oil and gas accounted for over half of global GHG emissions associated with energy consumption. This will have to dramatically reduce to keep to the net-zero by 2050 goal agreed by most countries.
The industry is looking for alternative uses for its products. They are currently heavily engaged in the production of raw plastic feedstock for industrial uses, are erroneously promoting liquid natural gas (LNG) as a ‘transition fuel’ and are investing in blue hydrogen as a low-carbon alternative fuel. The recent proposal by LNG Newfoundland and Labrador Ltd to construct a facility in Placentia Bay to develop the natural gas resources in offshore Newfoundland cites blue hydrogen as one of the uses of the gas.
In order to call blue hydrogen at all ‘green’ the carbon part of methane has to be safely disposed of. This solely depends on a technology called carbon capture and storage (CCS). There is a huge amount of investment in this technology including support for research and demonstration projects from the Canadian government. CCS has been one of the great hopes for saving the fossil fuel industries from decline for decades—similar to the hype surrounding nuclear fusion in the past. CCS is really about the fossil fuel industry saving itself rather than saving the planet.
Beyond the hype from the fossil fuel lobby are significant problems with CCS. Currently there is one small commercial CCS plant in Canada and four pilot projects. Globally there are no large-scale CCS plants and the whole industry accounted for around 100Mt of carbon in 2021.To put this into perspective, Canada on its own emits 700Mt carbon per year.
There is no evidence that CCS is either economically sound or feasible at the scale required to justify its commercial use. In fact, there is some evidence showing that “industrial carbon removal” is a net-contributor to carbon emissions—that is, the process of CCS produces more emissions than it captures.
In comparison to other environmentally-friendly climate change solutions, CCS is relatively expensive. A 2018 study from Harvard and Yale universities found that fossil fuel facilities utilizing CCS cost between $43 and $95 USD per tonne of CO2 whereas onshore wind and solar power cost $25 to $29 USD per tonne of CO2. There are also significant dangers of leakage and environmental pollution when the carbon is stored underground and also during transport.
Alberta’s Hydrogen Roadmap with associated federal and provincial funding running into millions of dollars, envisages hydrogen as being a major part of Alberta’s energy portfolio. It refers to hydrogen produced from natural gas as ‘clean hydrogen’—another case of greenwashing from the oil and gas lobby.
We need to answer the question ‘why invest in blue hydrogen and associated carbon capture and storage when green hydrogen is an environmentally safe and economically sound long term investment?’. It appears to come right down to supporting the influential oil and gas corporations.
The real danger of blue hydrogen is that it delays necessary action on climate change. Investment in environmentally-safe and proven sustainable energy technologies such as wind, solar and ‘run-of-the-river’ hydroelectric power which can be implemented now are far more beneficial to the climate. Green hydrogen can be produced right now. Other GHG-mitigating projects in public transport, building retrofits, agriculture and industrial production are also vital.
The recent International Energy Authority (IEA) World Energy Outlook report cites the lack of finance for climate-friendly solutions to be one of main obstacles to achieving net-zero by 2050. In particular it says that over the crucial period to 2030 the committed investment in these areas falls well short of the emissions reductions that would be required to keep the door open to the IEA’s Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 trajectory.
Instead of focusing our efforts on known, reliable and tested solutions to the climate crisis we are letting ourselves be distracted by loud voices from an industry that is constantly looking at ways to make more profit at the expense of the environment.
David Ellis is a lifelong environmentalist beginning with CND, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace in the 1970s. He is currently Chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador (Avalon) Chapter of the Council of Canadians. David and his wife, Sue, run Two Whales Coffee Shop in Port Rexton.
Our chapter's "take" on what's wrong with the proposed placentia bay liquified natural gas facility and marine terminal
On November 23, the NL government invited public comments on the proposed Placentia Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) and Marine Terminal. Our national Office submitted a detailed analysis on Dec. 23.
We, at the Avalon Chapter, feel strongly enough to want to add an additional voice to their analysis.
Before introducing our submission to government let it be noted that our Chapter members agree with the laudable, stated goals of creating a progressive, environmentally positive policy approach, as detailed in the NL government's Renewable Energy Plan. However, in our opinion, there is a contrast between these goals and government's use of every available opportunity to vigorously advance the province's so-called "clean" oil and gas, along with false "transition fuels" like Liquified Natural Gas (LNG).
Below is our submission to government detailing our concerns. For a further analysis please check out the submission made by our national office which can be found below this submission.
Our Dec. 28th submission
to the Environmental Assessment Division of the Department of Environment & Climate Change.
Re: Placentia Bay Liquified Natural Gas Facility and Marine Terminal
We are submitting these comments as members of the Avalon Chapter of the Council of Canadians, the Newfoundland and Labrador affiliate of the Council of Canadians.
A thorough critique of the registration document, dated December 23, 2021 has been submitted by our colleague Robin Tress, on behalf of the Council of Canadians. The Avalon Chapter agrees with and endorses that critique. As citizens and residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, we add our voices to the pleas that the proposal to construct an undersea LNG pipeline, transshipment facility and marine terminal in our province be rejected.
Following is our response to the registration document.
Predicted demand for LNG not consistent with Net Zero by 2050 goals
In the project registration document (p.12) the proponent cites a graph by Shell predicting a substantial increase in demand for LNG. Data from global oil and gas corporations should be viewed with caution as it is in their interests to promote these products.
The graph is at odds with the IEA World Energy Outlook 2021 data of natural gas demand, 2010-2030. This data for the Announced Pledges Case (leading to a 2.1°C global temperature rise by 2100) shows natural gas demand rising by 10% in 2025 and declining to current levels in 2030 and then slowly declining. The IEA Net Zero Emissions scenario (leading to a 1.5°C temperature rise by 2100) again shows peak demand by 2025 of 4,300 bcm, declining to 3,700 bcm in 2030 (86%), and falling to 1,750 bcm (40%) in 2050. It should be clearly understood that the IEA NZE scenario is a non-negotiable narrow pathway in which there are no exemptions. Any relaxation will lead to unprecedented climate-related changes to our world.
‘Transition fuels’ not recognized by IEA and pose substantial problems
Although the concept of ‘transition fuel’ has been promoted by the oil and gas industry, the realities are not clear cut nor widely accepted. The IEA report, Net Zero by 2050, has no mention of ‘transition fuel’—the gap left by decreased reliance on coal is filled by increased sustainable energy production. The report (p.102) states that “no new natural gas fields are needed in the NZE beyond those already under development. Also not needed are many of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) liquefaction facilities currently under construction or at the planning stage.”
A recent academic paper in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews investigated the direct and indirect effects of natural gas on the energy transition and concluded that overlooked indirect effects of natural gas can negate its direct benefits. The authors concluded that “taking advantage of a transition fuel comes also with challenges. Initial investments to a potential transition fuel such as natural gas could lock-out emerging renewable technologies for extended periods.”
Hence a real danger of promoting a ‘transition fuel’ is that it delays necessary action on climate change. The huge capital investment in the proposed project reduces the pool of global capital that is urgently required to be invested in sustainable energy/zero carbon projects. The IEA report (p.21) gives priority to clean electricity generation, network infrastructure and end‐use sectors as key areas for increased investment.
Investment in renewable energy a priority leading to long term gains
The Newfoundland and Labrador government’s excellent Renewable Energy Plan recognizes that the use and development of our abundant renewable energy resources can assist in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate clean innovation and growth. The report notes that there is plentiful opportunity to create new green jobs in this province.
In Newfoundland and Labrador if we invested an equivalent amount of capital in renewable energy projects such as wind, solar power and clean hydrogen production not only could the green projects be commissioned earlier than 2030 but these would be of lasting benefit to the climate.
The significant employment prospects noted in the project registration document could be easily matched by employment in similar projects in the renewable energy sector and GHG mitigation projects such as home retrofits, transportation and new low carbon industries. These new jobs are long-lasting and increase the necessary skills base for future projects in this Province. The employment in LNG is short-lived.
Advance 2030 plan not consistent with achieving Net Zero by 2050
Page 11 of the registration document cites Advance 2030 – A Plan for Growth in the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas industry as an indication of the government’s desire to commercialize offshore natural gas. Advance 2030 was written in 2017/18—the world, public opinion, climate science and the Provincial government have changed significantly since 2017. The plan barely mentions climate change; references ‘sustainability’ only in terms of the profitability of the industry and references the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate change only as “a concern for the industry”. The plan is totally inconsistent with achieving net zero by 2050 and will need to be abandoned soon if the Provincial government is still committed to its stated climate goals.
Carbon-intensive construction exacerbates climate change
Constructing the platform, vessels and pipeline will release significant amounts of GHG into the atmosphere. Concrete and steel manufacture are both highly carbon intensive. This is without the benefit of substantially reducing GHG emissions over the long term compared, say, to investments in wind and solar power.
Reliance on 2007 submission not appropriate
The current registration document relies heavily on an earlier submission based on field data and environmental and cultural information obtained in 2007 and earlier (Grassy Point Liquefied Natural Gas Transshipment and Storage Terminal, Comprehensive Study Report, CEAR Reference Number 07-03-26546 Newfoundland LNG Ltd.) There should be a re-examination in the present context of concerns raised but dismissed 14 years ago. It is not enough for the proponent to assert that “it is committed to further public consultation and will be developing and implementing an engagement strategy” (p.40).
In conclusion: the current proposal should be rejected as inadequate and the project itself rejected as being inappropriate to the global and local conditions that face the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
on behalf of the Council of Canadians, Avalon Chapter
why the council of canadians is opposed to the proposed plcentia bay liquified natural gas (LNG) facility
In response to the NL government's request for input on the proposed Placentia Bay LNG facility, Robin Tress of the national office of the Council of Canadians made the following submission to the Environmental Assessment Division of the Department of Environment &Climate Change.
Dec. 23, 2021
I write to you on behalf of the Council of Canadians, a grassroots social justice organization with more than 150,000 supporters across Canada who are concerned with protecting our water, environment, and democracy for future generations. We work to eliminate the social harm and inequality that the climate crisis perpetuates, protect water as a common good, build economic justice through domestic and international policy, and address the historical injustices that Indigenous peoples and people of colour continue to experience in the present day.
The Council of Canadians is working with community activists across the country to move towards rapid decarbonization across the economy, and to push for just transition legislation at the federal level. In this submission, we point to several areas of concern with the Placentia Bay LNG Facility and Marine Terminal for your consideration in the context of the need for a just transition.
We are in a climate crisis
This summer, 595 people died as a direct result of a heat wave in western Canada that can be directly attributed to climate change. Fires raged across B.C. and Alberta, and floods slammed the Prairies. In the autumn months, those same B.C. communities that were hit by fires were then hit by floods that knocked out roads, homes, and whole towns. In Atlantic Canada, we are experiencing more intense weather than ever, with multiple consecutive storms in the past month alone.
The cumulative impact of greenhouse gas emissions is well understood – they contribute to climate warming that is destabilizing life-sustaining ecological systems on this planet. This year, The International Energy Agency released a report warning that fossil fuel infrastructure should be considered unwise investments and strongly recommended that countries move quickly toward a new energy economy, and veer sharply away from fossil fuel extraction and expansion. Climate scientists issued a “code red” warning for humanity to tackle the climate crisis by ending fossil fuel extraction and cutting greenhouse gas emissions globally.
Within this context, we have an opportunity to fundamentally change our economic development strategies and create a transition towards a decarbonized economy that respects the limits of the global climate and creates stability and opportunity for people. We can address the rapidly growing inequality in our communities by creating community driven transition plans.
People in Newfoundland and Labrador already support this transition – four out of five people in the province agree that as the provinces recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, priority should be placed on moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy and efficiency systems, which should include training and income support for affected workers. Intentional government support for new and growing sectors required by the decarbonization transition - like energy efficiency retrofits, for example - can create jobs across the province.
The province would not be alone in building this transition; it could follow in the footsteps of local and national organizations leading the way, and countries around the world who are implementing their own just transition plans. Organizations and individuals in Newfoundland and Labrador collaborated in early 2021 to create The People’s Recovery – a set of principles and demands for a just recovery out of the COVID-19 pandemic. This report details community-focused economic development opportunities within the energy sector and across the economy.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives laid out basic principles for a just recovery in Canada. It must recognize and enshrine basic rights, including labour rights and human rights, include the participation of affected workers and communities, expand the social safety net, create new economic opportunities, and drive inclusive workforce development.
Countries like Denmark and New Zealand have started winding down their fossil fuel industries using just transition principles and practices. Common threads between these countries’ successes are pro-active economy-wide planning, engaging workers and communities to make regionally-relevant plans, and driving the transition with substantial public investments. With forward-looking policy aimed at diversified economic development and intentional support for workers, Newfoundland and Labrador can create prosperity and stability for its peoples within the livable limits of the global climate.
LNG is not a clean fuel, does not lower global carbon emissions
In the project registration document, the proponent repeatedly claims that LNG is sustainable, and that this facility would produce the “world’s cleanest LNG.” The idea that LNG is a low or non-emitting source of fuel is unfounded.
The Grassy Point facility is proposed to produce 4 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) of LNG. For comparison’s sake, the recently abandoned Goldboro LNG facility in Nova Scotia was expected to produce 10 MTPA, and would have produced 3.7 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent, according to energy analyst Dr. Larry Hughes.
Using Dr. Hughes’ assessment as a touchpoint, one could estimate that a 4 MTPA facility would produce about 1.5 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually. Newfoundland and Labrador’s emissions totalled 11.1 megatons in 2019; adding 1.5 megatons would constitute a 12 per cent increase in the province’s emissions. This is contrary to the proponent’s unqualified suggestion that this facility would lower emissions by 400,000 tonnes per year (see page 59).
Earlier this year, Quebec’s environmental review board ruled that the environmental and social risks of the proposed GNL Quebec project would outweigh any potential benefits. This research included a robust look at the company’s potential greenhouse gas emissions and the potential savings that could be accrued by switching from other more polluting fossil fuels to natural gas. It found that the company could not demonstrate that their project would lower global greenhouse gas emissions. As such, the government denied permission for the project to proceed.
Science has already shown us that even the existing supply of fossil fuels has the potential to jeopardize maintaining a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming. Creating new export facilities that will run for decades will make it impossible to limit warming to a tolerable level. The Global Energy Monitor reported in 2021 that “proposed gas plant capacity in many countries outnumbers recent coal plant cancellations” and “emissions from long running LNG and pipeline capacity will be operating well beyond 2050–2060 carbon neutral targets.”
It is illogical and incorrect to consider a new LNG export facility that will facilitate the extraction, export, and burning of fossil fuels well past 2050 as a way to bring global carbon emissions to net-zero in the next 30 years.
Greenhouse gas emissions must be accounted for
This application includes no substantial assessment of the anticipated climate impacts of the proposed project. It provides only inconsistent and poorly described comments on the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project. On page 27, the proposal says, “There will be no substantive processing or regasification of LNG; hence, there will be no significant generation of hydrocarbon by-products, emissions, or effluents.” Then on page 39 the report indicates that one of the expected environmental interactions is: “Atmosphere - During operations thermal power using natural gas will be used for electricity generation which will represent a source of GHG emissions.”
Vague suggestions about climate impacts or lack thereof are insufficient. It is essential to accurately calculate the GHGs the proponent expects to result from this project so we can judge that against the remaining carbon budget, which is dwindling.
As noted above, several other similar LNG projects have been expected to produce huge emissions, and other government have found that the environmental and social risks of LNG outweigh the potential benefits. Creating another major source of emissions in Newfoundland and Labrador would seriously hinder the ability of both the provincial and federal governments to meet their emissions reductions targets of 30% and 40% below 2005 levels by 2030, respectively. Remember that these climate targets are not just numbers: they are changes we need to make to our energy systems and economy that could protect stable human society on this planet. The physical climate cannot be negotiated with— these targets are rooted in physics, not politics.
Carbon Capture and Storage is not a viable solution
The proponent suggests it will use Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to capture any emissions that are created by this project, and will use this captured carbon to conduct enhanced oil recovery (EOR). This suggestion warrants serious investigation by the Minister.
CCS does not stop fossil fuel production and consumption, which are well understood to be fundamental drivers of the climate crisis. Instead, it prolongs reliance on fossil fuels and increases oil production through enhanced oil recovery, as the proponent intends to.
There is no evidence that CCS is either economically sound or feasible at the scale the proponent is proposing. In fact, there is some evidence showing that “industrial carbon removal” is a net-contributor to carbon emissions - that is, the process of CCS produces more emissions than it captures. Carbon capture and storage is a dangerous distraction from real climate solutions. International scientists and economists have made it clear that we do not need to fix fossil fuels; we need to rapidly transition away from them. We need to invest resources to meaningfully replace the fossil fuel industry, not prop it up. As noted above, we urge the Minister to consider economic development through diversification and a just transition, rather than continued fossil fuel extraction and export.
This proposal is significantly different than the 2008 proposal that it references
In the registration document, the proponent references environmental approvals and risk assessments associated with a project it proposed in 2008 - the Grassy Point LNG Transshipment and Storage Terminal (see pages 5, 9, 26, and 34). The 2008 comprehensive study report for Grassy Point LNG states that “this facility will operate as a component of the LNG delivery chain, providing transshipment and storage services for clients with pre-existing supply arrangements.” The core purpose of that project was to receive and ship LNG, not to liquefy natural gas from its gaseous state.
The 2021 proposal is for a different project – it is a liquefaction and export facility, which is substantially different than the first proposal in 2008. To rely on the environmental assessments from 2008, which assessed different industrial activities under a different regulatory regime, is not appropriate.
Additionally, the 2008 proposal and environmental approval are now 13 years old. As we know, the global climate is changing rapidly, and marine and terrestrial ecosystems are changing in step. The proponent should provide up-to-date data on the environment in which they are proposing this work as part of this project registration.
It would be inappropriate for the Minister to approve this project based on the approvals for the 2008 Grassy Point proposal, as they do not apply to this new and different project.
This registration document lacks critical information, contains errors
There are gaps in the proponent’s proposal that raise alarm. For example, on page 25 the document states that the “current resource use of the Grassy Point area is likely restricted to small game hunting (otter trapping and duck hunting), fishing, berry harvesting and domestic wood cutting.” It is concerning that while the proponent claims to have a long-standing relationship with the municipality, it seems to be unaware of the current land use of the area, and instead speculates about the “likely” resource use.
The presentation slides attached to this registration also include errors and inaccuracies. Slide 22 states that Goldboro LNG had a conditional loan guarantee from the German government. In reality, Goldboro `LNG proponent Pieridae Energy boasted about this loan guarantee, but German officials later clarified that there was no loan guarantee in place, only a non-legally binding letter of interest. This inaccuracy is concerning because it paints a picture of LNG projects as attractive to investors, when in reality the majority of global LNG projects are likely to fail due to lack of investment.
The registration document notes that “Newfoundland LNG could therefore reduce its carbon footprint by 400,000 tonnes/year meeting the most stringent carbon emission standards in the world of about 0.16 tonnes of CO2/tonne of LNG,” but provides no justification for this claim. As noted in the sections above, liquefying natural gas is an energy-intensive process that can result in enormous greenhouse gas emissions, so claims that this project will lower emissions should be rigorously examined.
These inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims raise doubts about the credibility of this registration document and the information it contains. The proponent does not supply the Minister with adequate information to properly assess the risks of this project.
We are in a climate crisis. The best available science compels us to stop expanding our use and export of fossil fuels and invest instead in existing technologies and industries that can provide power and prosperity to our communities and ensure a safe future for everyone. Despite the proponent’s claims to the contrary, there is no evidence that the Placentia Bay LNG Facility will lower global emissions.
In addition, this proposal relies heavily on environmental approvals from a different project that do not apply to the current review. It contains numerous errors and does not give the minister enough information to make an informed decision under current regulatory systems.
For these reasons, the Council of Canadians implores the Honorable Minister to reject the Placentia Bay LNG Facility and Marine Terminal.
Climate and social justice campaigner
On behalf of the Council of Canadians
It has been a very busy year for the Avalon Chapter. By mutual agreement, John Jacobs continued as Chapter Chair, Marilyn Reid as Treasurer, and Yvonne Earle as Chapter Contact Person. COVID-19 concerns necessitated that our meetings continue to be virtual via the Zoom online conferencing system. Despite the constraints, we managed to hold regular chapter meetings monthly, with the exception of August. The virtual meeting approach allowed us to have active participation by members from outside the St. John’s area, thus increasing the number of regular participants to ten.
Members have participated in regional and national Council of Canadians (virtual) meetings and webinars, including those related to Council renewal. We have been engaged in federal consultations for a Canada Water Agency and a Canadian Nuclear Waste Repository. Of course members were active in the 2021 federal election, through our campaign for electoral reform and through questions directed to candidates on issues of concern. Members also participated in distributing 1000 Fair Vote Canada door-hangers.
Following the provincial election in 2020, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador created several task forces. An external advisor, Moya Greene, was selected to lead the Provincial Economic Recovery Task Team (PERT). Ms. Greene’s past history of favouring privatization of public facilities was a cause for concern. There was little public consultation. Following a letter to PERT from the chapter, which was also published in The Telegram, the chapter received an invitation for some members to meet with the chair on February 15, 2021. After the publication of the Task Force report in May 2021, members made submissions to EngageNL and government ministers as follows:
Members of the chapter participated in the Peoples Recovery NL movement, a diverse group of individuals and organizations working in an open, collaborative process to develop a People’s Recovery. This is an alternative to the Premier’s Economic Task Force and to proposals to cut or privatize public services in our province https://peoplesrecoverynl.ca/ .
The Avalon Chapter is part of an effort by several groups working to have the province declare a climate emergency, with the process delayed by the provincial election and Covid restrictions.
We are also gathering signatures for the Council of Canadians petition to the Government of Canada to enact just transition legislation. Chapter members continue to monitor and react to expansion of offshore oil and gas development and proposals for further development of hydroelectric dams in Labrador. One of our members, Roberta Frampton Benefiel, attended the COP 26 global climate conference in Glasgow, as part of a delegation advocating against megadams being part of any climate change solution.
Currently, members are participating in the province-wide task force consultations on a new provincial Health Accord. Another round of Town hall meetings will be held in November to validate the plan and the final report is due at the end of December.
Letter to Telegram: Oct.10th
The last seven federal elections in Canada have produced five short-term, minority governments. Moreover, in the 2019 and 2021 elections the Liberals received fewer votes than the Conservatives but still formed the government because they won more seats.
Under a proportional representation (PR) system, where the percentage of seats a party receives matches their share of the vote, the latter would not necessarily have happened. Instead, since neither party had the required 50% of votes for a majority government, the “winning” party would be the one most able to form a partnership with other parties to pass legislation. This implies a whole new way of governing.
Working cooperatively, usually in coalition with other parties, is central to proportional representation systems. And contrary to what PR critics claim, these coalition governments are remarkably stable and lasting.
As an example, since Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish voters chose proportional representation to elect their new parliaments or assemblies back in 1997, there have been five elections in Scotland, six in Northern Ireland and six in Wales. Contrast that with the nine elections Canada has held during that period.
Surveys indicate that Canadians like the concept of proportionality. It appeals to our sense of fairness that, under a PR system, NDP, Green or PPC supporters would not be wasting their time voting for a candidate that has no chance of winning the riding seat. Why? Because their votes would still be counted to determine how many seats their party would win nationally - something that doesn’t happen under our first-past-the-post (FPTP) system.
PR also makes it less likely entire regions of the country will be represented by just one party.
Yet Proportional Representation has been rejected in referendums in B.C., P.E.I. and Ontario. Why? We suspect it has to do with its implementation. FPTP may be unfair to minority opinions in ridings, but the manner in which the seats are allocated is much easier to understand.
Still, confusion about the implementation of PR seats wasn’t an obstacle for Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish voters, accustomed as they were to voting in EU parliamentary elections. They knew proportional representation worked. Choosing it was a no-brainer.
Canadians, by contrast, have little exposure to PR. Moreover, our two major parties remain firmly attached to our first-past-the-post system. And why wouldn’t they be? FPTP systems perpetuate dominance by two parties.
However, FPTP can no longer be relied on to produce majority governments. That’s a game changer, although we somehow doubt the Liberal Party is going to shift its position on PR. After all, they are the principal beneficiaries of strategic voting where NDP and Green supporters vote Liberal in order to prevent a Conservative riding victory.
The Conservatives, on the other hand, should be noticing, not just their disadvantaged position, but that “conservative” parties are holding their own in Europe.
Might it be in their interest to actually support a Made in Canada proportional representation system – one uniquely designed to meet the diverse needs of our country with its strong rural component?
(Marilyn Reid and Barry Darby are members of Democracy Alert NL and the Council of Canadian)
The federal election gives us all an opportunity to ask questions about issues that are important to us all. Here are some vital questions the Avalon Chapter of the Council of Canadians is asking Newfoundland and Labrador candidates. Other voters may wish to ask them too.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has confirmed that heating of the atmosphere, ocean, and land due to human activities is approaching dangerous levels. To halt this warming, we must stop the increase of greenhouse gases — principally CO2 — to reach a point of net-zero emissions. The fate of our planetary environment depends on us reaching that point as soon as possible, with 2050 having been proposed by government leaders. Recent events now indicate that may be too late.
Question: Do you agree that we are in a climate emergency and must aim for net-zero emissions much sooner than 2050? If you are elected, what will you do to reduce carbon emissions?
Maintaining water services as a public right and meeting federal regulations for water quality are critical to healthy communities.
Question: Do you oppose the privatization of water management, including public-private partnerships? How will you champion direct federal funding to Newfoundland and Labrador municipalities for much-needed water and wastewater infrastructure?
The COVID pandemic highlighted the plight of Canadians who do not have or lose drug coverage. Parliament has failed to implement a national pharmacare program after intense lobbying by the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. A national pharmacare program would save the provinces money, as would legislation to lower the cost of patented drugs. The savings could then be spent on needed health and other programs.
Question: If elected, will you work to ensure Canada has a universal, comprehensive, portable, accessible, publicly administered pharmacare program?
The fishery represents a highly renewable resource with enormous potential for sustainable economic and social benefits for Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada and the world. But federal policies neglect this potential in order to support unsustainable ocean industries like offshore oil and gas and corporate freezer-trawler fleets which harm the marine environment and endanger offshore spawning stocks. Meanwhile, we have a 400,000-tonne cod stock being harvested at just two per cent annually when a 20 per cent harvest has been shown to be sustainable, leaving the rest of the fish with plenty of food to grow and reproduce. This is just one example of federal mismanagement of the fishery.
Question: Do you agree that the government should make the fishery a key policy focus, prioritize the inshore over the offshore, and enact strategies that eliminate waste, maximize sustainable harvests and protect the marine environment?
For decades, Canadians have been calling for change in the way we elect our governments. Under our current “first-past-the-post” system, most so-called majorities are achieved with less than 50 per cent of the vote. In contrast, most other democracies have now chosen some version of proportional representation, where the proportion of seats a party holds reflects its proportion of the popular vote. Under such a system, parties tend to work cooperatively for the benefit of the country. It’s time for Canadians to have that option. Citizens’ Assemblies have a successful record of moving this question out of the partisan political sphere and giving a genuine choice to the electorate.
Question: Would you support the formation of a Citizens’ Assembly to produce a fairer, more proportional electoral system to replace the present “first past the post”?
John D. Jacobs, chairman
Avalon Chapter, Council of Canadians
As published in the Telegram Sept. 13th
The last six federal elections have produced two "majority" governments with less than 40% voter support, and four short-term minority governments. Yet, our two major parties continue to claim that our first-past-the-post electoral system is stronger and longer lasting than PR governments. That view is challenged in this Sept. 4th member's letter to the Telegram.
One more argument for proportional representation
The Trudeau government has called an election less than two years into their mandate. Why?
Probably, because they want to get rid of their minority government status at a time when they believe they are popular in the polls.
In spite of the fact that four of the last six federal governments in Canada have been minority governments, our two major parties will likely continue to call snap elections, simply to avoid having to collaborate in any way with other parties. According to Wikipedia the average duration of minority governments at the federal level in Canada has been a mere 479 days. This is both indulgent and disruptive.
Clearly, the time to opt for proportional representation (PR) is overdue. Even in Britain, the birth place of our first-past-the-post system, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have now chosen to use PR in their regional parliaments or assemblies. In doing so they have embraced the concept that the percentage of seats a party holds should match the percentage of votes it receives.
Contrast that with Canada where the two recent “majority” governments (2011 & 2015) were both won with less than 40% of voter support.
Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish citizens are also at ease with the idea that the different parties will work collaboratively in the coalition governments that proportional representation systems so often produce. What’s noteworthy with respect to the duration of these UK coalition governments, is that almost all have lasted a full term.
This raises questions for us. Given the regularity of short-term minority governments, why does government continue to resist the formation of a Citizens’ Assembly to look at the merits of switching to a proportional representation system? Whose interests are being served here?
I don’t believe it is that of ordinary citizens.
To access this information in pamphlet form click here.
Avalon Chapter members have made several submissions to EngageNL and government ministers.
Below is our submission on the Fishery.
Response to PERT Report
Barry Darby and Helen Forsey
Avalon Chapter, Council of Canadians
The small Fishery section of "The Big Reset" is profoundly disappointing. It presents a biased and superficial picture of the sector, implicitly belittling the importance of the fishery to our province's economy and society. Of the 300-plus page PERT report, the wild fishery occupies a scant seven pages, with just two recommendations out of the total of 78 (five out of 179 if you count sub-recommendations.)
The report demonstrates a vast ignorance of and indifference to the fishery. Despite the wealth of information and ideas easily available in the public domain, the Team did not do its homework. The report's 82-page Bibliography contains references from various organizations involved in oil and gas, hydro, and mining, but cites almost no fishery-related sources: there is nothing from the Marine Institute, the Association of Seafood Producers, the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW), the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters (CCPFH), or even the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), which governs our entire fishery. Not surprisingly, then, the authors show almost no understanding of the realities of our fishery or its context – for example, the considerable difference between the economics of a processing plant and the economics (bioeconomics) of ocean harvesting.
The pro-corporate, pro-industrial, "bigger is better" bias that permeates the whole report is clearly predominant in the fishery segment. As a framework, it presents two contrasting "visions" for the future of the fishery – "a highly capitalized industrial approach with higher incomes for fewer participants," versus "a more traditional lower capitalized industry with more plants and more seasonal work supported by EI." This is a false dichotomy – one of those simplistic set-ups that misrepresent complex issues as either/or choices, thereby excluding from the discussion the rich diversity of possible alternatives. The authors are then able to disparage one view (in this case, the "traditional" one), leaving the other as supposedly the only option – one that fits beautifully with the PERT's overall approach.
The report disparages the way the Employment Insurance system operates and its effect on harvesting. The relevance of this criticism at the provincial level is questionable, since EI is a federal system and harvesting policy is a federal responsibility. But in any case, fish harvesting, like tourism and agriculture, is subject to seasonal limitations, not only in NL but across the country. So of course workers will turn to EI; that's what it's there for.
Moreover, where EI impacts NL's fish processing sector (provincial jurisdiction), the short employment periods result directly from DFO's establishment of particular harvesting seasons for each species and the province's refusal to permit multispecies processing by all fish plants. But the report does not reflect the distinctions among jurisdictions or the structural problems that arise from them.
It is unreasonable, to say the least, to imply that we should change our fishery so that EI would not be part of it. It's not as if there aren't sensible and informed proposals out there about what could be done to meet these challenges. Rick Williams's book, "A Future for the Fishery – Crisis and Renewal in Canada's Neglected Fishing Industry" (Nimbus, 2019), addresses the EI question specifically and in detail, together with an in-depth analysis of the labour market issues in the Atlantic Canadian fishery. But Williams' book, like other pertinent sources, is not listed in PERT's Bibliography.
Two of the five recommendations in the report's fishery segment – rebuilding NL's fisheries for future generations and taking the lead in research and management – fall into the motherhood category, and mainly in federal jurisdiction. Two other recommendations are mutually contradictory: one calls for increased fish processing, while the other recommends that no new processing licenses be issued.
The remaining recommendation, for equal custodianship of our marine resources with the federal government, was a rallying cry in the 1990s, but has since been largely abandoned as constitutionally unrealistic. Nonetheless, the point is well taken – the Province must indeed strengthen its voice on fisheries issues, push the federal government to listen, and demand that our experience and advice carry their due weight in DFO's decisions.
Beyond those five, however, the report's recommendations on the fishery are most noticeable by their absence. The authors make no recommendations at all on what appear to be some of their key points. For example, they criticize the current harvester-processor collective bargaining model, calling it "anti-competitive by nature" and claiming it ignores quality and other market considerations and can be disadvantageous to plant workers. They applaud transferable quotas and market-driven supply chains, and refer to fish auctions, yet they do not recommend anything. It would have been helpful if they had proposed more balanced and workable collective bargaining mechanisms (such as the single-desk selling used successfully in some agricultural sectors) instead of, in effect, condemning collective bargaining itself and leaving it to government to replace it with something unknown.
The report refers to better fishery management in Iceland and Norway, but again makes no recommendations. This despite the fact that Gus Etchegary of the Fishery Community Alliance met with Dame Moya and attempted to convey to her and her team the clear and feasible recommendations the group has been making publicly for months if not years. Notably, last October, they wrote to Premier Furey urging that a delegation of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with in-depth fishery expertise visit Norway and Iceland to explore the problems with the North Atlantic fishery, discuss how they do things there, and come back to advise our governments. Surely PERT could have recommended that?
The recommendation to reinstate the threshold requirements for processing licenses is particularly baffling. "The Big Reset" is very big on privatization of government assets and activities. Fish processing is already a private sector domain, yet the report is urging the government to reassert its involvement in this business, right down to defining who can process what species, where a plant can be built, and a host of other requirements laid out in the provincial Fish Processing Licensing Act.
There are also some clear distortions of the facts. In regard to northern cod, the report states that "spawning stock biomass has dramatically declined and current values do not [reach] the minimum needed to support a commercial fishery." However, figures for the past several years show a relatively stable estimated 400,000-tonne biomass, while annual removals barely exceed 2%. In the past we sustainably harvested 20-40% annually, and that is still the case in similar stocks in Iceland and Norway. It is obviously ridiculous to suggest that our current 2% represents overfishing.
Elsewhere, the authors confuse correlation with causality, stating that higher landed prices for snow crab were the result of "collaborative behaviour" between harvesters and processors, when it was simply that the world price went up. In regard to the labour supply, they suggest that efforts to increase employment opportunities by favouring the labour-intensive inshore fleet represents a contradiction with the use of temporary foreign workers in fish plants. But harvesting and processing are two very different labour markets, and there is no contradiction involved.
The report's authors are critical of DFO's recent prohibition of controlling agreements between harvesters and processors. They claim this inhibits vertical integration, and "removes any mechanism for processors to maintain security of supply," without which, they say, the processors have trouble accessing capital. This may be another case of conflating correlation with causality, but if that's a problem in this time of very low interest rates and excess capital, surely it's not up to the government to solve it. And harvesters should not have to submit to outside control in order to access operating capital.
In conclusion, the fishery segment of the report starts from a series of faulty assumptions, proceeds without reviewing a diverse range of sources or checking its facts, imposes its pro-private sector leanings and ignores alternative analyses. Shallow and biased, this report leaves the government, the fishery and the public worse off than before.
To: Minister Davis
From: David Ellis, Port Rexton member of our Avalon Chapter
Dear Minister Davis,
I have just read your comments on the recent IPCC report in the Telegram and am concerned that this province is not taking our Climate Crisis seriously. Apart from the usual platitudes and saying we are going to reach net zero by 2050, there is no urgency in your comments, and it seems to be the same old path of supporting and subsidizing the oil and gas sector to the expense of the planet and all that live on it.
There is no balancing to be done - we need strong leadership and a firm plan to move the province forward in reducing GHC emissions in the very near future. This means phasing out oil and gas production sooner rather than later, an immediate start to a Just Transition for sector workers, and a halt to hanging on the coattails of an industry that has denied, lied and deliberately acted to cause harm to our environment with the sole aim of maximizing their profit for the last 60 years. We can not continue to condone this egregious action any longer.
Besides the urgent adoption of a short term phase out of oil and gas production there is much that con be done to mitigate GHC emissions as indicated by your now outdated "the Way Forward". Your government's actions must match the severity of the crisis which will rapidly impact the whole planet on a far greater scale - communities and countries spontaneously bursting into flames is just the beginning.
It takes leadership to make the difficult decisions that must be taken immediately. The people of this province must be told how dire the situation is and will become, in order to bring them on board - to realistically increasing gas prices, for example. How can we be selling so many new gas-guzzling trucks when the planet is burning? Apart from creating disincentives, we need to offer alternatives like a properly funded mass transit system and further incentives to buy EVs. You have moved some way with this but you need to be bolder.
As well as the few GHC reduction projects under way it is excellent to encourage the public to do what they can. But turning off the lights is not going to get us there! We need to move faster with more urgency and you need to make the difficult decisions to wean us off from an oil and gas industry which we have allowed to become a crutch to our economy for the past twenty years - because it was the easy way.
Be radical. Put the planet first, not the oil and gas executives and shareholders. You can not put a price on this planet. It is the only one we have.
Six of our Avalon Chapter members have made submissions to ENGAGENL on the province's economic recovery plan. We have put in a lot of work because we care passionately about this province and the future directions government may take.
As an environmental and social justice group we believe that governmental decisions over the last two decades have been blinkered. Too much influence has been given to business groups - groups that almost always look for short-term solutions to Newfoundland and Labrador's problems.
The business sector's bias is understandable. Their first priority is to make money today and tomorrow. But it is time for Government to recognize that that bias may not be in the long-term interest of the people of our province.
Both the environment and the world economy are changing at an unprecedented pace. Our worry is that our political leaders will continue to favour out-of-date "solutions" that are no longer in step with the direction the rest of the world is taking. The prioritization of fossil fuel extraction, P3s and privatization are examples of this myopic thinking.
Avalon Chapter members have made the following submissions to EngageNL and government ministers.
Let's start with Yvonne Earle's submission on progressive revenue options and tax cuts.
Response to The Big Reset
As first priority, the Premier and Cabinet must look to increase provincial revenue with minimal cost to those already struggling financially. This must be done on a short timeline so the financial impact on NL’s budget can be evaluated before any cuts in services and programs are considered.
Progressive revenue options are presented in both the PERT report and The People’s Recovery Revenue Options factsheet for changes to personal income tax, wealth tax, corporation tax and various tax credits.
139 Elizabeth Ave St. John’s NL A1B 1S2
Below is a letter posted in the Telegram on June 29th by Council of Canadian members Helen Forsey and Elizabeth Lee.
For all its high-sounding platitudes about the need for "transparency" in government, the Premier’s Economic Recovery Task Force (PERT)'s "The Big Reset" report was, and is, about as un-transparent as you can get.
Worse, the government's follow-up consultation process is so laden with misrepresentation and spin as to border on the fraudulent.
The report itself actively discourages analysis and criticism. The authors defy standard practice by omitting any listing of submissions received or of groups and individuals consulted, so readers have no idea of where they got the input they claim.
Throughout the team's secretive months-long pre-report process, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians noted the utter lack of transparency and public involvement; now the problem is compounded by the report's opacity.
Equally anti-democratic is the report document's design. The recommendations are not numbered; some of them incorporate a range of sub-recommendations, also un-numbered, and there is no index to track down items buried in the 300-plus pages.
All this makes attempts to refer to any of them time-consuming and potentially confusing. Moreover, a lot of the content and recommendations do not hang together. Questions are raised or implied, then not even reflected on, let alone answered.
The government's current so-called public consultation process adds insult to injury. The main mechanism for citizen input is through Engage NL with two online questionnaires.
Deceptively introduced as requiring "approximately 30 minutes to complete," the questionnaires are also structured in ways that will seriously distort the results.
The choices are presented so as to elicit a disproportionate number of "support" responses — also known as "false positives" — and to make it difficult (and exhausting) for respondents to enter true negative ones.
One of the most effective ways the designers achieve this is by rewording the report's recommendations. "Please note," they say, "some recommendations were edited for clarity."
Far from helping with clarity, the "editing" often makes it impossible to know what you are actually supporting or opposing. As a result, it requires hours of work to properly complete the questionnaire, meticulously going back through the entire report to compare it with the questions, which are jumbled up and put in a different order. Naturally it's much easier to simply click "support" or "neither support nor oppose. Afterall, who would oppose recommendations for improved services or environmentally sound fisheries management?
Poor glossaryThe report kindly provides its own glossary, offering definitions of 36 terms that it apparently deems too esoteric for the general citizenry to understand — such as extreme poverty, hydroelectricity, per capita and "royalties.
Unfortunately, it neglects to include PERT's own unique brave new world terminology, in which, for example, "streamline" means deregulate; "clarity" means duplicity; "green" indicates less damaging than it might be; "improve" may mean sell or privatize and "uplift" can mean anything from eliminating volunteer school boards to slashing university and college budgets.
There is no reason to imagine that the government's "virtual town halls" or "stakeholder roundtables" will be any improvement on the questionnaires. Such "consultations" typically involve lengthy official presentations to which members of the unwashed masses are invited to "respond" — briefly and within strictly prescribed limits. The supposed results are then put forward as support for the predetermined agenda.
All in all, the level of hypocrisy of the entire process is breathtaking.
“The Big Reset" is trying to press the reset button on Newfoundland and Labrador's society, pushing us against our will towards austerity, privatization and catastrophe.
The government is attempting to justify these measures with a bogus consultation process, carefully engineered to disempower public opposition by misrepresenting intentions, twisting facts and playing us all for fools.
Fortunately, however, citizens throughout the province aren't buying it.
We refuse to be herded into the corrals so carefully set up for us by Premier Andrew Furey, Dame Moya Greene and their collaborators.
We are making our voices heard loud and clear, in the papers, on radio and television, in conversations, on social media and wherever we gather, virtually or otherwise.
As the People's Recovery makes clear, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have genuine alternatives. And we need to take them.
Helen Forsey and Elizabeth Lee,
Council of Canadians, Avalon Chapter
It's hard not to conclude that the Premier's Economic Recovery Team believes that only the private sector can effectively rescue government from economic collapse. Privatization is to be the way forward.
Our concern is that "The big reset" implicitly reinforces the current Liberal government's enthusiasm for P3s. There are sound economic reasons why we believe that to be a mistake. Some of them we've outlined in our letter to MHAs below.
Dear Member of the House of Assembly;
We extend both our congratulations on your election to the House of Assembly and our admiration that you would take on this challenging role at a time when our province has so many problems to deal with.
The specific focus of this letter is to urge you to take a stand against any further Public Private Partnerships (P3s) for upgrading infrastructure in our province. We cite three reasons:
1. There is increasing awareness that P3s are not in the public interest. For example: In Canada five provincial auditors have said that P3s cost taxpayers substantially more. They have also found that, instead of transferring the risk to the private sector – one of the main justifications for privatization – provincial governments usually end up assuming all the risk. Similar concerns exist in Europe. In 2018, the European Court of Auditors reported widespread shortcomings in European P3s and the British government announced that it would no longer sign on to P3 projects.
2. Various reports show that P3s do not adequately benefit local economies. The initial investment required is often too high for local businesses to participate as anything other than minor players. Meanwhile, the profits leave the province. It can also be extremely difficult to cancel P3 contracts even if there is massive mismanagement.
3. P3s shift the costs of infrastructure projects to future governments. That’s an unfair burden to place on tomorrow’s taxpayers. We believe it is self-serving to assume that the economic prospects of our children and grand-children are going to be rosier than those of this generation.
We would also like to draw your attention to a recent report on P3 projects in this province by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The report judged consulting firm Ernst and Young’s seven to twelve percent assessment of savings using P3s to have been both optimistic and flawed. The CCPA documented many biases in the EY assessment, which is not surprising given that the company had a vested interest in promoting the projects.
In conclusion, we don’t disagree with much of the PERT report's analysis with respect to the extent of our province's economic problems. We recognize that something has to be done. Hard choices have to be made.
However, the emphasis on privatizing public assets and public services goes against growing evidence worldwide that this is not in the economic interests of the public. The PERT report is, to us, reminiscent of the kind of IMF directives that have been imposed on indebted Third World countries over the last 70 years. Consider where that got those countries – loss of sovereign decision making and increased dependency on mega projects, backed and controlled by elite corporations.
We urge you to explore alternatives to the privatization “solutions” implicitly promoted in “The Big Reset”. There has to be a better, more progressive way forward.
Marilyn Reid and John Jacobs
for Avalon Chapter of the Council of Canadians
On February15th our Council chapter had a meeting with Dame Moya Greene. Prior to the meeting we sent the Economic Recovery Team a summary of what we wanted. It comprised three sections:
Climate Change and Biodiversity Challenges - John Jacobs
Humanity is facing a crisis as a result of global climate change and the loss of biological diversity. Addressing climate change requires reducing carbon emissions to the atmosphere so as to achieve “net zero” by 2050. Biodiversity loss requires protection of wildlife habitat, among other measures. All future development planning must take into account potential impacts or benefits in relation to climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation objectives.
The aforementioned plans and policies are based on extensive public consultation and reflect critical input from all interest groups and concerned individuals. Forward planning should not ignore existing policies and practices that are working.
Rethink Rural and Remote Diversification - Yvonne Earle
NL needs to build on its geographic location in and bordering on the north Atlantic rather that fight against it. Small communities need to be able to look to a future. Young people need to see reasons to stay, return or arrive as new comers.
Addressing Revenues and Expenditures – Marilyn Reid
Finally, we believe that the culture in government over the last decade has been one that repeatedly excludes different points of view. An important corrective step would be reform of political donation practices – practices which have very little to do with party loyalty and much to do with buying influence. In our opinion the practice of dismissing senior civil servants whenever government changes hands also needs to be curtailed.
The following was submitted on the 27th of February 2021
The Council of Canadians’ position is that water is a human right and, as such, must be protected from privatization, pollution, and bulk exports. Universal access to safe, clean water and adequate sanitation must be a reality for all.
The province of Newfoundland and Labrador faces serious challenges with respect to freshwater resources. These involve municipal and regional-provincial levels of government and include matters within federal jurisdiction. A Canadian Water Agency has the potential to assist the Province in dealing with these challenges.
· Municipal and community water and wastewater infrastructure
· Regional surface and groundwater degradation from mining activities
· Hydroelectric installations
· Climate variability and change
· Accommodating a new “green” economy
Municipal Water and Wastewater
Larger municipalities, such as St. John’s, face potential shortages in water supply in the coming decades. Development of already designated protected freshwater bodies will be needed to meet demand, and water treatment and distribution systems will need to be expanded. Many smaller municipalities and unincorporated communities have inadequate water treatment or none at all, resulting infrequent and longstanding boil water advisories.
Provincial drinking water policies must have the goal of making safe public water supplies the standard for consumption in all communities, instead of commercial bottled water. A Canadian Water Agency could facilitate the development of alternatives to chlorination for treating drinking water supplies.
Municipal wastewater discharges are regulated under the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations (WWSER) and the Fisheries Act. For Newfoundland and Labrador, this includes 206 wastewater discharge points in 117municipalities, of which 184 are believed to have only partial treatment or none (ECCC, 2020) Enforcement is a problem and there is a lack of adequate funding for sewage treatment facilities and staffing. Consultations are ongoing regarding extensions and temporary authorizations.
It is clear that financial assistance will be required from the federal government if there is to be compliance with the regulations. This should be facilitated though loans from the Canada Infrastructure Bank, without resort to public-private partnerships, which result in higher costs in the long term.
Effects of Mining Activities
There are long-standing concerns locally as well as globally about the impact of mining on surface waters. The Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER) of the Fisheries Act prohibits the deposition of “deleterious substances” into fish-bearing waters. However, a mining company can request that a lake or pond be designated a “tailings pond”, in which case dumping is permitted. Sixty-four such exemptions have been granted across Canada (Schedule 2 of the MMER), including at least four in Newfoundland and Labrador. The case of Sandy Pond exemplifies the conflict between industrial expediency and the need to conserve freshwater ecosystems . A Canadian Water Agency should place a priority on having the Schedule 2 option removed from the MMER and provide guidance through research on mine and mill waste disposal that minimizes effects on natural waters and watersheds in Canada.
The Muskrat Falls component of the Lower Churchill Hydroelectric Project was carried out with little regard for effects on methyl mercury levels in the resulting reservoir and downstream, despite evidence from other large northern hydroelectric projects. That project is virtually complete, though with a considerable cost overrun and remaining reliability questions. A next step envisions further dam construction upstream at Gull Island. We oppose further dam construction on the Churchill River. We recommend that a Canada Water Agency be the first point of review for any large dam project in relation to the protection of water quality, the disturbance of the natural hydrologic regime and the impact on Indigenous peoples living along the water course.
Climate variability and change
Projections of climate change in Newfoundland and Labrador include increases in seasonal temperatures and in the frequency and intensity of seasonal precipitation, with increased flooding resulting in damage to infrastructure and drinking water supplies and drinking water supplies.
A Canadian Water Agency should play a role in the planning and coordination of provincial and municipal responses to climate change impacts on water supplies and water and waste water infrastructure.
Accommodating a new “green” economy
Newfoundland and Labrador, like the rest of Canada, is facing an uncertain future, as we attempt to recover our economy following the effects of the pandemic. Many of us are calling for a green recovery – one that is responsive to the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions by changing our habits and technology, particularly modes of transportation. The downside of such innovation is the increasing demand for certain metals and minerals to support the electrification of our transportation sector – the extraction of which puts further pressure on our natural environment, including our waters. Our habits, technology and regulatory framework will need to adapt.
A Canadian Water Agency should play a central role in educating and assisting Canadians to move ahead with a “green” economic recovery while protecting the environment.
John D. Jacobs, PhD.
Avalon Chapter, Council of Canadians
The following letter was published in the Telegram on January 11th.
We have been following any news or reports concerning the Premier’s Economic Recovery Team (PERT) since it was first announced. The recent resignation of Mary Shortall from the team, comments by Jerry Earle on his meeting with Dame Moya Greene and a recent CBC report by Terry Roberts which included the concerns of Prof. Russell Williams about the process PERT is following have us very concerned.
On Dec. 16, we sent the letter copied below to Premier Andrew Furey and the team. Except for an email acknowledgment from the premier’s office, we have had no response.
Dear Premier Furey,
As Newfoundland and Labrador citizens who care passionately about the economic future of this province and an environmentally sustainable future, we ask you to endorse and forward our concerns to the Economic Recovery Team for consideration:
1. Public consultations should be positioned at the start of the Economic Recovery Team’s mandate and should include the voices of all generations, Indigenous peoples and people of other cultures. We ask you to avoid the growing habit, notably at the federal level, of only holding public consultations after directions and recommendations have been decided.
2. We urge the recovery team to consider experiences from other countries, especially those that have recovered successfully from economic collapse, for example, Iceland's fishery. This is in keeping with the task force mandate to “review best practices from other jurisdictions.” Researching those options could be a civil service responsibility.
3. We ask that the recovery team explore a more diversified approach to our economic recovery than megaprojects and privatization. It is critical to adopt a perspective that empowers local initiatives. This must include the meaningful involvement of municipalities, Indigenous peoples, and all communities across the province, similar to the consultations currently being held by the Health Accord NL Task Force.
We look forward to taking part in these consultations.
On behalf of Avalon Chapter, Council of Canadians
Did you know that among the ten provinces Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest percentage of rural communities without banking services? It's a situation that is getting worse as the big banks shut down more and more rural branches.
That very inconvenient problem could be solved by giving Canada Post banking status. It's not a new idea. There has been a cross country push for postal banking for almost two decades - a push that is, not surprisingly opposed by the banking sector.
We've made a short eight minute YouTube video exploring the reasons why rural Canadians both need and deserve postal banking. It asks why the federal government consistently refuses to address the problem.
We bet you can guess the answer.
You can check out the video here.
(As published in a Letter to the Telegram, Nov. 7th)
In his letter to The Telegram of Oct. 22nd, Tor Naess states correctly that “fossil fuel is in the process of being phased out as a preferred energy source,” and he goes on to give some of the reasons why — the principal one being the challenge of “meeting global climate goals.”
However, he argues, since some 80 per cent of future energy requirements will still have to come from oil and gas through 2035 (itself a controversial estimate), the government should get busy and “encourage more offshore exploration activities through incentives.” Further, “the resources may stay in the ground unless developments are accelerated.”
It is becoming hard to keep track of the players as they chase profits for a resource that is of declining value.
This “acceleration” would be assisted by government through more incentives and by “streamlining” the approval process, including further weakening or removing regulations, which is the last thing our much-stressed marine environment needs.
In other words, Naess is saying the province is at risk of seeing the demand for its fossil fuel resources decline and those resources essentially becoming valueless if we wait too long.
This sounds like a desperate plea on behalf of an industry already in turmoil, and it sends the wrong message in these difficult times.
It is becoming hard to keep track of the players as they chase profits for a resource that is of declining value. We have recently learned that Husky Energy — last month’s main petitioner for government subsidies for the West White Rose extension — is being bought out by Cenovus. Are we to be left with a “white elephant” at Argentia?
China’s state oil company, China National Offshore Oil Corp., is chasing cheap oil in many other countries, and plans to start exploratory drilling in the Flemish Pass, no doubt encouraged by government’s new initiative involving reinvestment of forfeited security deposits. Perhaps there is a message here.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is promoting a sustainable energy pathway that will see carbon emissions reductions aimed at meeting the targets of the 2015 Paris Accord. As part of a path toward economic recovery, the IEA is calling for investment in reducing methane emissions as a way of mitigating some job losses in the sector, as well as efforts to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
The provincial government has two task forces at work now, one on the economy and the other focused on the fossil fuel industry. Both groups will hopefully be working toward a greener and more sustainable future in which the bulk of our known and unknown fossil fuels remain “in the ground.”
John D. Jacobs, chair
Council of Canadians, Avalon chapter
Below is our Letter to the Telegram published on November 4th. It concerns the composition of the Task Force which was formed to determine how to spend the $320 million in federal money allocated to job recovery related to the downturn in the oil industry.
With the word “bubble” now so trendy, this seems a good time to critique the bubbles surrounding leadership in our dominant political parties.
The Goliath of our troubled political bubbles belongs, without doubt, to the Conservative Party. We had a Conservative government ensconced in a bubble with a powerful premier at the centre, obedient minions in the civil service, and an entourage of business interests who cared only about immediate profits. No one outside that bubble was listened to. Result: Muskrat Falls.
Then there were the Ball government’s bubbles. Probably the most memorable is that first incredible, 2016 budget attempt that put a levy tax of 1.2% on Newfoundlanders and Labradorians struggling with incomes less than $25,000, but only .45% on those making $200,000 or more. It was quite an amazing demonstration of how those in bubbles of privilege, even when well meaning, can have little understanding of the economic reality of ordinary people.
Already there’s evidence that similar blinkered, bubble trouble may thrive with the new Furey government. An example is the Task Force recently commissioned to spend the $320 million allocated to the province by the Trudeau government. The federal money came with two loosely worded conditions - that it be used to support laid off oil workers and that it reduce carbon emissions. For those of us who thought that meant training and channeling workers into green economy jobs, dream on.
What we got was a Task Force in which 19 of the 21 appointees came with strong links to the offshore industry. We’ve also got leadership in both the Liberal and Conservative parties itching to make sure that as much of that money as possible goes to helping the oil sector stay in the province.
We shouldn’t be surprised. The oil sector is very, very good at getting money out of governments. According to a 2019 International Monetary Fund report, when you include damages done to the environment and atmosphere that the industry doesn’t pay for, the subsidies to oil in 2017 were a staggering $2.13 trillion or 2.7% of world GDP that year. And that was a typical year.
Like other community groups, we do understand that the government is between a rock and a hard place, and that, at this point in time, we need to slowly transition away from our dependence on oil. But that transition may ultimately be necessary, like it or not. Choosing to minimize exposure to other points of view and other directions is what we don’t need.
Prioritizing one “solution” above everything else is exactly the kind of bubble trouble that gave us our Muskrat Falls mess.
Marilyn Reid, on behalf of the Avalon Chapter of the Council of Canadians
For the last 30 years countries worldwide have been pushed into a globalization model. In the case of Canada we have signed multiple trade agreements.
There is a growing realization worldwide that while “free” trade has been very good for big transnational corporations and the financial institutions that back them, it has not been good for workers. According to a recent United Nations UNCTAD report, inequality and job precarity have grown substantially during that period. The UN has gone so far as to say that there is a cause-effect relationship here.
We agree. We think it’s time to tell that story, particularly as it relates to Canadian workers. On that point, we hope you will consider watching this eight minute video that we have made on the Canadian government’s role and questionable rationale for so enthusiastically signing trade agreements.
September 24, 2020
Dr. Andrew Furey
Province of Newfoundland and Labrador
Dear Premier Furey;
We have followed with interest the initiatives of your first months in office as made public in the media. In your new role as premier of our province with all its challenges and potential, we send our best wishes and our hope for achieving a sustainable, equitable future for our citizens.
We noted with concern the support you have given for further expansion of the offshore oil and gas industry and the program you announced September 24. As big investors worldwide turn away from fossil fuel industries toward investment in alternate energy initiatives we ask that our provincial government be doing the same. Here is an opportunity to shift our reliance on this segment of our economy by investing the unused exploration security deposits in the sustainable energy resources we have in abundance. We need to use our electricity for a green transportation infrastructure and to invest in programs to meet or surpass the climate targets our province has already committed to. Our skilled workers will also need help to transition to these new industries.
As the current COVID-19 crisis has made abundantly clear, our national healthcare system is critical to all Canadians regardless of financial means. In March the federal Parliament voted unanimously on a motion in support of universal, national pharmacare for Canadians and in the Throne Speech the Prime Minister has promised to start discussions with the provinces. We ask for your support and commitment to implement this vital program. Laid off workers have lost their drug coverage and for so many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians the cost of drugs is beyond their means. Many do without or make dangerous choices to stretch their prescriptions which have costly personal and healthcare outcomes. Pharmacare is a critical piece of our socio-economic recovery and as documented (Parliamentary Budget Officer report), will be a health dollars saving in the long run.
The real picture of poverty in our province has been clearly shown in recent months. It raises the question of why workers who work 40 hours a week to keep our systems and society functioning have incomes below the poverty line. We ask that your government swiftly implement a minimum $15/hour wage to support Newfoundland and Labrador workers as a basic step in addressing poverty. When those wages are spent locally it also can be a sustained boost to our economy. As seen previously, the push back from the local business community and corporate sector will be significant but many of those arguments have been used in the past to support slavery and keeping women’s wages lower than men’s. For a more just economy we need a livable minimum wage.
We are looking to you and your government to implement policies that will provide a just recovery for Newfoundland and Labrador’s communities and which immediately take responsibility to meet or surpass climate targets.
Avalon chapter, Council of Canadians