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Opinion  

David Suzuki on climate change and its effect on British Columbia

BC is boiling over

Island Scallops on Vancouver Island has relied on stable ocean conditions since 1989. But CEO Rob Saunders says those started changing a little over a decade ago. Measurements showed dropping pH levels, indicating increased acidity. “We started to notice our larvae weren't swimming very well; they weren't feeding. They were dying at a tremendous rate,” he says.

In 2013, acidity spiked near Qualicum Beach and wiped out 10 million scallops, forcing the company to rapidly adjust. Heightened acidity is a well-known consequence of C02 dissolving into the ocean to form carbonic acid. “The focus for us now is to try as fast as we can to find something that’s going to succeed in that ocean,” Saunders says. “There’s no question that the atmospheric CO2 is increasing.”

Saunders isn’t alone in noticing accelerating effects of climate disruption. People throughout British Columbia are witnessing profound changes. Salmon runs are down as rivers get warmer, lower or dry up altogether. Wildfires are becoming larger, more intense and frequent, threatening homes, businesses and ways of life. Insect outbreaks once kept in check by longer, colder winters have devastated millions of hectares of forest. People in the Okanagan have been hit with the double whammy of huge wildfires and flooding from rising lake levels. Climate chaos is costing billions.

Ian Mauro, a University of Winnipeg environmental scientist, geographer and filmmaker, explores the climate challenges and opportunities facing B.C. in his latest work Beyond Climate, which I narrate. This award-winning film takes the viewer past the headlines and into the heart of the issues.

From Haida Gwaii to Kelowna, Vancouver and Whistler to Mount Robson, we heard from people whose world is changing around them. Their stories of struggle and their ability to adapt in the face of massive shifts are important, so we’re offering the film for free starting February 20.

Past Haida Nation president Peter Lantin describes how low river levels from a historic drought in the archipelago affected everything from food to culture. “I think at one point it was 36 days without rain. Haida Gwaii is a rainforest, so that has huge impact on us.” 

Whistler Blackcomb environmental planner Arthur Dejong says that, despite the ski resort’s high elevation, it won’t escape climate change effects. “For every degree Celsius increase, the snow line will go up 120 metres. For over a decade and a half now, we have been putting lifts higher, [with] more snow-making, more summer grooming, as part of our adaptation to a future with less snow.”

Processing and transporting fossil fuels also poses risks. Still reeling from a spill of more than 100,000 litres of fuel and other pollutants when tugboat Nathan E. Stewart sank near Bella Bella in 2016, the Heiltsuk wonder how much worse it would be if a tanker loaded with diluted bitumen were to run aground.

Salmon and other fish are being especially hard hit by fossil fuel impacts, affecting commercial and sports fishing industries, food supplies and ways of life for coastal and inland peoples, especially Indigenous communities. Salmon also feed bears, eagles and other animals and fertilize the magnificent coastal rainforests.

Environmental planner Stephen Sheppard connects the dots between pipelines and climate. “We’re moving massive amounts of carbon through this province, all largely invisible to people. These are pipelines to the sky . It’s like taking carbon and sticking it in the air. Sooner or later, somewhere along the way, it gets burned; it goes up there.”

Fortunately, solutions are plentiful. In 2009, Vancouver implemented its Greenest City Action Plan. Compost programs, energy-efficient buildings, district energy, reduced reliance on private automobiles — all are putting the city on track to a greener future. Vancouver has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per person of any major North American city.

B.C. is the proverbial canary in the coalmine for many related issues that will define our place in the world: reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, the clean energy transition (with concurrent continued fossil fuel development and transport), conservation, food production, changing industries and economic priorities.

Listening to people experiencing rapidly increasing climate impacts and to those doing something about the problem is critical to our understanding of how to live better in this province and on this planet. 

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.







Jack Knox: No one voice can speak for the Wet’suwet’en

No one voice can speak

Tuesday morning, a group that included a handful of old white guys who looked, well, kind of like me demonstrated outside the Langford home of Premier John Horgan.

In doing so they invoked the name of the Wet’suwet’en, to which the obvious question is: Which ones?

For despite the best efforts of outsiders who would weaponize the Wet’suwet’en for their own purposes, it has become clear that deep divisions exist within that community. The Wet’suwet’en themselves don’t speak with one voice, so how can anyone else presume to stand on behalf of them all?

This applies to both sides of the tug-of-war, those who drag out Indigenous people to justify the gas line they want to see built, and those who do so in opposition. To be blunt, that’s cherry-picking. That’s selectively using Indigenous people as human shields to advance another agenda: climate change, corporate profit, a general-purpose rage against the machine, whatever. They should make a Heritage Minute: paternalism, a Canadian tradition.

It doesn’t help that the narrative has been over-simplified by those on either side and inflamed by social media indignation. To accept that the 20 elected councils along the gas-project route gave the project all the blessing it needs is to ignore the role of the five hereditary chiefs whose opposition has led to the current wave of cross-Canada protests. Yet to argue that elected councils have no legitimacy because they are a construct of the Indian Act, or that they have no say beyond the border of reserves, is a conveniently dismissive approach that ignores the feelings of those who did the electing.

People seeking a deeper understanding of the divisions could do worse than turning to APTN News, which, not surprisingly, offers nuanced perspectives not found in other media or espoused by those who shout loudest.

Among them are arguments advanced by Wet’suwet’en supporters of the pipeline: “Along with revenue from Impact Benefits Agreements and Provincial Pipeline Agreements, Indigenous businesses will benefit from $620 million in contract work for the project’s right-of-way clearing, medical, security and camp management needs. There is another $400 million in additional contract and employment opportunities for Indigenous and local B.C. communities during pipeline construction.”

The implicit message is that when you have spent 150 years on the outside looking in, and finally have a shot at sharing the kind of prosperity enjoyed by others, it’s frustrating to have that threatened by outsiders who were reared in the kind of comfort you were denied.

The counter-argument is that the hereditary chiefs are charged with responsibility for protecting the land, and that can’t simply be ignored — a position that dovetails nicely with that of those whose primary concern is the environment in general and climate change in particular.

The thing is, what happens when such interests clash? Environmental groups already squirm trying to reconcile opposition to logging with Indigenous involvement in Vancouver Island’s forest industry. Several Indigenous groups have expressed interest in investing in another pipeline project, the Trans Mountain expansion. Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced last week that up to 129 First Nations communities will be consulted in the next few weeks to ensure they have a shot at “meaningful economic participation” in Trans Mountain, which the federal government purchased from the private sector in 2018.

“This next step will be focused on different models of economic participation such as equity-based or revenue-sharing options and will seek to build momentum towards a widely acceptable option for the groups that we’re consulting with,” The Canadian Press quoted Morneau as saying.

“We’ll also explore whether the participating communities are willing to work together, either through an existing entity or a new one.”

The hearts and minds tug-of-war continued Tuesday when included among the provincial budget documents was an eight-page backgrounder titled Building the Foundations of Reconciliation. It was more or less a summary of existing initiatives, but included one key phrase: “Indigenous people have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands, territories and resources.” What wasn’t clear was who will speak on behalf of Indigenous people, or how differences between and within Indigenous bodies get worked out.

That’s a question more important to some than others. Long after the well-meaning, passionate student protesters have moved on with their lives, long after the ideologues have embarked on the next chapter of their class war, long after the gas companies have made their billions and long after the politicians have turned their focus to the next crisis, the Wet’suwet’en will be left to figure out how to live with one another, how to answer the tricky questions.

They don’t need the advice of you, me, or a bunch of non-Wet’suwet’en blocking the premier’s driveway in their name.



Should trans females be allowed to compete in combat sports?

Collision of trans sports

Mixed martial arts fighter Tamikka Brents had never felt anyone or anything like the blows that sent her to the hospital in 2014. Fallon Fox hit Brents so hard that she suffered a broken skull.

Despite the brutal loss, observers didn’t wonder whether Brents should be in the ring. They wondered about Fox, a male-to-female transgender fighter.

“I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night,” Brents said in an interview. “I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not because I’m not a doctor. I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right. … I still disagree with Fox fighting. Any other job or career I say have a go at it, but when it comes to a combat sport, I think it just isn’t fair.”

In light of the incident, Ashley McGuire, author of Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female, said, “Twenty years ago, if a man hit a woman so hard that he sent her to the hospital, he’d be in prison. Now he can get paid for it.”

Calling a male-to-female transgender a man is illegal in Canada and banned from social media platforms like Twitter. They must be called a woman because they’ve deemed themselves to be such.

But male-to-female transgenders competing against female-born fighters remains controversial.

Much of the male advantage over females in athletics is due to higher levels of testosterone and related hormones. As SportsScientists.com explains, the benefits include “lean mass, strength and power, reduced fat mass (thus power to weight ratio), stronger bones, larger hearts, increased hemoglobin mass, skeletal structure, and more.”

It’s part of the reason that in both sprints and marathons, the best women run about 11 per cent slower than the best men.

Most sport regulators trying to accommodate trans athletes require them to have maintained lower testosterone levels over the previous 12 months. Is this enough to level the playing field?

Male-to-female athletes who have artificially reduced their testosterone (and even increased their estrogen) notice reduced stamina, more difficulty building muscle and more difficulty eliminating fat.

SportsScientists.com points to the example of Joanna Harper. Harper was once a male distance runner ranked roughly in the 93rd percentile among men. After making the male-to-female transition and with lowered testosterone, Harper competed and ranked in the same percentile versus females. Harper has documented other athletes’ cases where similar results ensued.

This clearly doesn’t solve all the problems, since hormone levels represent just one aspect of thousands of biological differences between males and females. Besides this, the acceptable range of testosterone for a trans-athlete is debatable. The typical ceiling is usually 10 nmol/L. Last year, the International Olympic Committee guidelines recommended a level of half that but has yet to put those guidelines into effect.

Even so, one year of lower testosterone doesn’t eliminate the physiological changes in developmental years. That’s why SportsScientists.com says “the transgender (male-to-female) athlete poses particular concern for sports like boxing, MMA, rugby, AFL, even basketball, netball and handball.”

And if no requirement for lower testosterone is in place, the playing field is indisputably slanted towards a male-to-female transgender.

Most sport regulatory bodies require more than a simple self-declaration by a male-to-female competitor to compete. Canada is one of the few places where this is all that’s required.

Gender may be a matter of mind and emotions, even if that doesn’t match the physical reality. But sport is all about physical reality and who objectively lifts more, runs faster or kicks the ball in the net. Although the difference has to do with anatomy, it’s absolutely essential that inward realities supersede outward realities so transgenderism gains social acceptance.

As soon as biological sex is allowed to take precedence over the inward sense of gender, it reinforces the very status quo that the transgender movement tries to undo: that a biological male is male, and biological female is female.

Lee Harding writes for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

– Troy Media







IntegrityBC's Dermod Travis offers suggestions for year ahead

BC resolutions for 2020

I was hoping 2019 would have a lot less 2018 in it. Didn't quite work out so well. But not to despair, we can still hope and set some resolutions for 2020.

These first ones are for all of us. Social media seems to bring out the worst in people (including me). It's too easy to flip someone off online.

So, time to assign lines. 

Write the following 100 times on your Facebook wall: I will make a conscious effort to improve my online etiquette in 2020. Copy and paste is not allowed.

A few of you need to stop working yourself up into such a lather over every tweet from Global B.C.'s Keith Baldrey. It's not good for your health. Four out of five doctors recommend that you keep it to one or two of his tweets out of 10 per day next year.

While we're on the subject, stop calling female politicians – any female for that matter – words you would never allow someone to call your daughter.

If you're a page administrator on Facebook or Twitter, resolve to use hide and mute first, over ban and block.

Want to change a government policy? This resolution is for the Insurance Bureau of Canada and all those groups that try.

Commit yourself to putting forward the warts and all with your alternative. When you paint a nirvana, it had better check out. If it doesn't, you're sunk. 

Also? Doesn't look good when your head of communications tweets “get a life” to one of your critics (see above on social media). Although some of you may agree with his sentiment when you learn I was that critic.

For B.C.'s MLAs, all 87 of you: If a constituent or a resident of B.C. takes the time to write you, have the decency to reply.

Consider this illustration from the federal level.

Richard Lee – the former B.C. Liberal MLA for Burnaby and former 2019 federal Liberal candidate in the Burnaby South byelection – didn't get a response to his Jan. 1, 2019 letter to the Prime Minister until Global News's Sam Cooper delivered a gentle nudge, nearly a year later.

Trudeau’s office then emailed Lee “to acknowledge receipt of (his) correspondence.” Nice of them. And for a former candidate to boot.

For the leader of the official opposition, Andrew Wilkinson: resolve to stop leading with your chin in 2020.

If you broke it (BC Hydro, ICBC, the B.C. Lottery Corporation, etc.), you can't blame the other guys for it or have much to say about how they're trying to clean it up unless it's constructive.

Instead champion issues like Mary Polak's private member's bill “to require companies to pay contractors within 28 days of receiving an invoice, and contractors to pay subcontractors seven days thereafter” or approaches to addressing Vancouver's absurd business property tax rates where “assessments are based on the development potential of a zoned lot, not the building in its current form.”

The Liberals may be the opposition for part of one term, a full term or more, but you still have a job to do. Do it well.

For Premier John Horgan, your resolution is simple: find a fix to the forestry crisis in 2020 or you could find yourself singing “I'm a Lumberjack” sooner than you might like.

For those who observe the comings and goings at the legislative precinct: get out of your cocoon more often than you have in the past. 

There are real taxpayers out there who don't care about the inter-personal machinations of the legislature. 

They don't stay at five-star hotels, they don't get to give themselves a $258,000 retirement allowance or claim for meals they never paid for, they just get left with the tab.

In the same neighbourhood of governance issues, there's something about politicians, senior government officials and expense accounts.

Just because there's no law, policy or rule is not an excuse.

In Ontario, the Office of the Integrity Commissioner “reviews the travel, meal and hospitality expenses for cabinet ministers, parliamentary assistants, leaders of the Opposition and their staff, senior executives, appointees and the top five employee expense claimants at selected agencies, boards and commissions.” 

So here's a resolution for the Legislative Assembly and the government: adopt Ontario's model for approving expenses. Give oversight and approval to someone whose hands are far removed from your cookie jar of temptations.

Here's hoping that along the way in 2020, we experience more moments of joy than not. Let's keep our fingers crossed. Until then, Happy New Year.

– Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC



Why the monarchy still makes sense in Canada

In praise of the monarchy

Public support for the monarchy in Canada is lower than in the United Kingdom, but Queen Elizabeth II’s reign isn’t over yet and there’s no real reason to believe Prince Charles won’t become the next head of state.

Quebec aside, Elizabeth remains extremely popular throughout Canada. Polls show eight out of 10 Canadians positively endorse her. And while a majority of Canadians suggest cutting ties with the monarchy upon the Queen’s death, the majority is slim and roughly half of the population would accept Charles as the next head of state.

The role of the Queen in British politics has been amplified in recent months with the ongoing shambles related to the United Kingdom’s expected withdrawal from the European Union.

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson requested her approval for a longer-than-usual prorogation of Parliament (which was later reversed in the courts), it felt like the future of Brexit was in Her Majesty’s hands.

Technically, it was. Had the prorogation not been granted, those in Parliament who favoured remaining in the EU would have had extra time to formulate plans to stifle Britain’s planned exit.

Activists in favour of remaining in the EU have rioted and politicians have engaged in the most egregious acts of defiance and disrespect for democracy.

Meanwhile, the Queen has been a refreshingly neutral, respectful and loyal participant throughout. Her positive influence, and her power, have felt very real in recent months.

But in Canada, her role might well seem less prominent. Perhaps it’s a combination of the fact that much of her work is done by the governor general of Canada, as well as the interesting silence over the matter by Canadian Jacobins.

I’m talking about far-left extremists who are willing to jump on any political cause that might create headaches for the stereotypical politician and decry colonialism as genocide.

It’s important to consider the thoughts of activists like this in relation to the role the monarchy plays in Canada.
While incessant social media campaigns tell Canadians and the rest of the world that colonialism has resulted in the carefully planned and ongoing cultural genocide of various cohorts of people in Canada, little is said about the living, breathing embodiment of European influence over North America.

Isn’t this hypocrisy?

I say this as a staunch British monarchist. The Commonwealth that binds the U.K. and Canada – along with 51 other member states – is a great positive for the world.

I’ve heard little in the way of criticism from Canadian Jacobins. That’s probably because support for the monarchy hasn’t completely diminished and many of these activists are likely in favour of the monarchy – or at least indifferent about it.

For those who don’t support the monarchy as an institution in Canada: Would you prefer an American-style system? Do you prefer a directly-elected head of state, a president who encompasses both the role of the prime minister and queen?

Next time you find yourself sharing space with Canadian Jacobin at a Royal visit, ask them if they really support the crown.

Jack Buckby is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

– Troy Media



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