Earlier this week at Passage, I wrote about the British Columbia government’s failures to address climate change. But to be fair, the province can only do so much: they’re always going to be hampered by whatever the federal government is doing. 

In the Guardian, Tzeporah Berman, the chair of the Fossil Fuel Nonproliferation Treaty Initiative, writes that meaningful climate change action is impossible so long as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lets lobbyists defang policy. 

“Canada’s big banks and pension funds are among the largest fossil fuel financiers and investors in the world. Their enabling of the fossil fuel industry hinders real action on climate,” she writes. “Pollution from oil and gas production is the fastest-growing source of Canada’s emissions, yet our government has no plan to wind down the industry.”

There’s much about Canada as a country that leads to the burning of huge amounts of energy. The country is large and spread out, so people often have to rely on road or air transit to get around. The climate is varied, so much of the country has both central heating and air conditioning to survive annual blizzards and heat waves. 

And yet, the government is convinced that somehow we can escape from the current situation by continuing to build pipelines and frack natural gas. Canada is treating the climate crisis as something it can solve with minor tweaks, rather than an entire overhaul of the system. And taxpayer money keeps getting spent on fossil fuels.

Case in point: A recent report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development found that since 2018, Canadian governments have spent at least $23 billion supporting pipeline projects. 

Moreover, the $1 billion in taxpayer funds that Alberta earmarked for oil well cleanup was money that corporations would have spent anyway — meaning it didn’t go toward actual clean energy infrastructure. 

In order to actually make oil sands carbon-neutral by 2050, corporate CEOs say it’ll take $75 billion in government investments — with much of that coming from taxpayers.

The answer to the problem lies in changing what we spend money on. Raidin Blue argues in Canadian Dimension that “deep energy retrofits” on homes is an obvious place to start: “Instead of trying to put energy-intensive air conditioning units in every home (which would significantly increase our GHG emissions) well-designed retrofits involve replacing windows and doors, adding insulation, and installing fans and heat pumps to make homes more livable while saving the average household hundreds of dollars per year.” 

Not only does it help cut buildings-based carbon emissions, but it also creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and saves money in the long run. 

And David Suzuki, in Rabble, points out that climate justice is inherently linked to decolonization: “Canada was built on resource extraction, and its foundations are shaky on many fronts, including dispossession of Indigenous peoples and wilful blindness to natural limits.” 

Suzuki suggests redirecting money — such as having businesses and homeowners on unceded land pay taxes to the Nations whose territories they’re in, or increasing the fees that extractive energy companies pay and splitting those between the Province and First Nations. 

The government needs to change its spending priorities. 

Back to Tzeporah Berman for a final thought: “If you are hurtling towards a cliff you don’t just attempt to slow down a bit. You change direction.” 

Stay safe, stay hydrated, stay angry. 

– V. 

This Week From Passage

I Was Fired For Criticizing Israel. Now I Dig Holes for A Living.” Kevin Metcalf. 

Kevin Metcalf was a journalist at the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE). In spring 2018, when Israel killed more than 25 Palestinian protesters and journalists, and injured hundreds of others, he did his job and wrote an alert about it. Then CJFE fired him. This incident proves how much of a hold pro-Israeli government messaging has in Canadian media — and how speaking about the ‘wrong’ things can kill a promising career.

The B.C. NDP Say Surviving A Heat Wave Is On You, Not Them.” V. S. Wells.

B.C. Premier John Horgan loves personal responsibility. Not dying in a heat wave is apparently explicitly your personal responsibility. Implicitly, the B.C. NDP’s lackadaisical policy also means that not dying from poisoned drugs, not catching COVID-19 and cutting your carbon footprint (while fossil fuels get subsidies) are also your responsibility. I take a look at how the province has tried to shirk responsibility on a number of climate-related points. 

Hamilton Police Are Using COVID-19 Laws To Crush Dissent.” Robert Hiltz.

In the last few months, pro-Palestinian and defund the police protest organizers in Hamilton, Ont., have been issued tickets for breaching Ontario’s pandemic health measures. Anti-masker protests have also drawn these tickets — but there’s a world of difference between one-off demonstrations against injustice, and continued attacks on public health orders. Treating them identically says they’re equivalent and, as Robert argues, that’s fundamentally unjust. 

Hassan Yussuff Showed That Access To Power Is Not Actual Power.” Adam D.K. King

Hasssan Yussuff, former president of the Canadian Labour Congress, has recently been appointed to the Senate. Yussuff’s tenure as the CLC’s top dog was dogged by a sense that he’d rather be hob-knobbing with those in power than organizing for workers’ rights. Adam breaks down why Yussuff’s “pragmatic” presidency undermined the CLC’s core aims.

Continuing Stories

  • Japan has announced a state of emergency due to COVID-19 that will run till August 22. Indoor Olympic events will take place without any spectators. 
  • Cowessess First Nation are in charge of their child welfare again. A federal agreement returned decision-making powers over children in care to Cowessess after 70 years.
  • The Green Party announced their new shadow cabinet, and it doesn’t contain either of their elected MPs. 

Elsewhere In Canada

How Canada Failed Thousands Of Asylum-Seekers During The Pandemic.” Neela Hassan, Rabble. 

Canada says they believe in human rights, but have repeatedly violated refugees’ rights by refusing to hear their cases, deporting non-citizens in huge numbers during a global pandemic and delaying getting documents to the refugees who are still waiting. 

Montreal’s Gun Crime ‘Crisis’ Isn’t Real.” Ted Rutland, Ricochet.

Amid cries to defund the police, Montreal’s police force have been running a positive-image PR campaign attempting to show the good work they do. They’ve spent the last year insisting the city is flooded with guns, and the police are necessary to protect civilians. But when you look at the numbers, as Ted Rutland has, they don’t point to increasing gun crime rates at all. Rutland argues this exaggerated concern does more harm than good. 

Around The World

Haiti Has Been Abandoned — By The Media, The U.S., And The World.” Amy Wilentz, The Nation. 

Human rights activist Antoinette Duclaire and journalist Diego Charles were murdered in Haiti a few weeks ago. Amy Wilentz writes about a country in chaos, caused in no small part by external meddling from countries like the U.S. and Canada. An editor’s note at the top of this piece notes that hours after it went up, Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise was assassinated. Nobody knows what will happen next.

The Canadian Mining Company Dominicans Call ‘Worse Than Columbus’.” Jaclynn Ashly, Jacobin.

Barrick Gold, a Canadian mining company, has been running operations at the Pueblo Viejo mine, near Cotuí, since 2012. Their takeover coincided with huge devastation, as animals and plants started dying in droves and residents developed painful illnesses. This article is a long read looking at the horrors Barrick was likely responsible for — poisoning the land, splitting the community and forcing villagers to leave their homes, all in the name of profit.

Ideas & Culture 

Who Gets Left Behind As We ‘Return To Normal’?” Laura Weiss, The New Republic.

As more people in the West get vaccinated, our governments insist it’s time to return to how things were in the before times. But that push obscures the fact that some people can’t “live with” the risk of COVID-19. Disabled or chronically ill people, for whom vaccines may be less effective, can’t see friends and family. Long COVID sufferers have had their lives changed by the illness. There needs to be space, and grace, for people who can’t go back to normal — and leaders should be prioritizing their needs, not ignoring them.

‘Cat Person’ And Me.” Alexis Nowicki, Slate. 

In 2017, Kristen Roupenian’s short story in the New Yorker, “Cat Person,” went viral. It was eerily similar to Alexis Nowicki’s life, and the relationship she’d had with an older man while in her teens. This essay is about Nowicki trying to figure out how intentional those similarities are — but also about virality, age dynamics and grief. There’s also something fascinating, on a meta-level, about how an essay discussing a story that went viral four years ago is now at the centre of its own social media buzz. 

One Last Thing

Cards on the table: I’m a sucker for Vox explainer videos. This week, they released one on how the rich avoid paying taxes. It’s information you likely already know, but it’s presented in a helpful and digestible way. Send it to that guy you went to school with who dedicates his Facebook feed to simping for billionaires.

Quick question: do you think the article you just read would be published elsewhere?

Odds are that it would never run in Canada's corporate media. That's why we're asking you to be a part of building a real, left alternative to corporate media — so that more people are exposed to viewpoints and ideas like this one.

But without your support, it's an impossible task. We depend 100% on readers like you becoming members to pay writers and fund our operations. We don't take money from wealthy backers and we don't run ads.

If you want to see more work like this published, become a Passage member today.

Become a member