Supreme Court rules safe injection site can stay open

A unanimous ruling from the Supreme Court should put an end to the Harper Government’s attempts to shut down Vancouver’s safe injection site, Insite. The Supreme Court ruled that safe injection sites receive an exemption from federal drug laws because they are proven to save lives.

“Insite saves lives. Its benefits have been proven. There has been no discernible negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada during its eight years of operation,” – Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. 

The ruling will make it easier for other cities to now open their own safe injection sites. Read more at the CBC.

Increased earthquake activity linked to hydrofracking

Hyrdofracking, the process of extracting natural gas from shale deposits involves injecting a pressurized mix of water and other substances into the rock to release trapped natural gas. In BC’s Horn River area, where there is intensive hydrofracking a noticeable jump in seismic activity has been noted. Over 30 earthquakes have occurred since 2009 when the hydrofracking was first introduced. Several jurisdictions throughout North America have either banned hydrofracking or placed a moratorium on the procedure due to concerns abut water safety, the link to seismic activity is a new one that warrants further investigation. Read more at CBC.

Community Energy Association announces release of “Funding Your Community Energy and Climate Change Initiatives”- a guide for local governments

The Community Energy Association’s latest funding guide for climate change initiatives provides a comprehensive list of programs and grants that offer financial incentives for climate change initiatives. The guide also provides tools and resources for accessing up-to-date information on energy planning. Download the 2011 release of Funding Your Community Energy and Climate Change Initiatives here. 

Climate change could cost Canada billions: report

Canada can expect to pay $5 billion per year by 2020 and between $21 billion and $43 billion each year by 2050 if it fails to come up with a domestic plan within a global agreement to tackle climate change, according to an assessment released by a federal advisory panel.

Other key findings from the report by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy include:

  • Timber supply impacts could range from $2 billion to $17 billion per year, with high impacts in B.C.
  • Flooding damages to coastal dwellings could cost between $1 billion to $8 billion per year. 
  • Poorer air quality resulting from higher temperatures will result in millions of dollars in costs to local health care systems in Canada’s major cities.
  • The economic benefits of investing in adaptation outweigh the costs of simply letting rising climate impacts and costs occur

The full report and an executive summary can be downloaded here

New CCPA report makes recommendations to help reduce “energy poverty”

The CCPA’s report “Fighting Energy Poverty in the Transition to Zero-Emission Housing,” examines the impacts increased energy costs are having on low income households. The term “energy poverty” is used to describe households who are not able to meet their basic energy needs due to rate increases. The report’s recommendations include: keeping  a two-tier system in billing, with rate increasing affecting only those with larger incomes, targeting older housing stock and multi-unit dwellings for retrofits, and investing in green jobs training. Read Marc Lee’s op-ed in the Vancouver Sun.

Download Fighting Energy Poverty in the Transition to Zero-Emission Housing here.

Poverty is costing Canada at least $25 billion annually

A new report by the National Council of Welfare, a government advisory committee “uses hard numbers to link poverty to the cost of productivity, health care and the justice system.”The report finds that a long term investment in preventing poverty would save taxpayers billions in dollars. For example, providing a shelter bed for someone who is homeless costs $42,000 per year while providing affordable housing would cost about $18,000 per year. Despite the cost benefits and social benefits of eradicating poverty, the report’s authors admit the ruling Conservative party isn’t likely to take action on the report’s recommendations.  Read more at the CBC.


Read The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty here.

Dawson Creek – BC’s first municipality to create a carbon fund

Dawson City is one of many BC municipalities that have voluntarily signed on to be carbon neutral by 2012, but it hopes to achieve neutrality without purchasing carbon offsets. To reach this goal the city is setting aside $100 for every tone of carbon produced from its government offices, recreation facilities and trucking fleets. That money will then be directed into projects that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The city expects to generate $360,000 annually for its carbon fund. Read more in the Vancouver Sun. 

“Passionate Torontonians” put the brakes on Mayor Ford’s plans to add glitzy attractions to Port Lands

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s plans to replace a neighbourhood-oriented plan for Toronto’s waterfront with a commercialized zone that included shopping centres, a Ferris wheel, and a monorail received a flood of criticism from the public and the majority of fellow council members. Ford is now agreeing to stick with the original plan, but to speed up the development process. Read more in the Toronto Star. 

Manitoba municipalities urging parties to invest in infrastructure

144 Manitoba municipalities have passed a resolution urging provincial parties to commit to a 1% tax provincial sales tax transfer to municipalities. The call for investment is an urgent one as infrastructure, from roads to the provision of safe drinking water, is at risk. Providing these funds will likely produce a boon to the economy. “The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has found that every dollar invested in infrastructure grows the economy, giving us more back. A $1-billion investment would actually grow the economy by $1.3 billion.” Read more in the Winnipeg Free Press. 

Are natural disasters a sign of climate change or “end times?” – the Great American Debate

According to some recent polling, climate change is becoming an increasingly polarizing issue in the states with nearly 60% believing the recent string of natural weather-related disasters being a sign of climate change and over 40% believing it is a sign of “end times.” Many politicians aren’t helping to provide clarity on the issue with only one third of Republicans believing the effects of climate change are upon us. Despite the high number of people still questioning the science of climate change, “91 percent of Americans—including 85 percent of Republicans—said developing clean energy should be a very high, high, or medium. Notably, large majorities (including Democrats, Independents, and Republicans) say it is important for their own community to take steps to protect the following from global warming: public health (81 percent), the water supply (80 percent), agriculture (79 percent), wildlife (77 percent), and forests (76 percent).large numbers also believe communities should take steps to protect wildlife, agriculture .” Read more in Siightline.

Vshould take steps to protect wildlife, agriculture .” Read more in Sightline. 

This Green House: Building Fast Action for Climate Change and Green Jobs

A new study – "This Green House: Building Fast Action on Climate Change and Green Jobs" by the Columbia Institute – reveals that modest investments in energy conservation in homes can save homeowners thousands of dollars and dramatically and rapidly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada.

The report shows that, at current energy prices, a homeowner can double their return – over $12,000 on an average $6,000 investment in energy efficiency over 25 years – by making simple changes like upgrading hot water tanks, home heating and cooling systems, and improving weatherization and insulation of homes.

“Our report shows that, with municipal energy efficiency financing, fast action on climate change is within the reach of most communities and homeowners,” said Charley Beresford, Executive Director of the Columbia Institute. “A small investment in one’s home– supported with loans provided at the municipal level – will give homeowners significant energy savings that they can take to the bank.”

The report examines the role Canadian municipalities can play in setting up financing programs for residential energy retrofits. Loans provided to homeowners by municipalities, financial institutions, utilities or other funders can be paid back graduallythrough small payments on property taxes or utility bills – removing a key financial barrier for many homeowners. Loan payments can be made from energy bills savings, making energy efficiency retrofits affordable for most homeowners.

Other highlights from the study:

  • In 2008, heating, cooling and electri­city in buildings accounted for 28% of Canada’s GHG emissions from energy use.
  • Average energy savings from retrofits: from 26% to 35% per home.
  • Energy efficiency retrofits create 20 jobs for each $1 million invested, compared with the oil and gas industry in Canada, whichcreates only 5.2 jobs for each $1 million invested.
  • Retrofits increase local business and jobs for heating-and-cooling and home improvementcompanies and suppliers.
  • No net cost to taxpayers – municipal loans paid back over time by homeowners.

Download a copy HERE.



“Mechanically- challenged” youth have trouble with basic skills

An article in Macleans Magazine looks at a decline in manual skills amongst youth and shows that the basics such as how to hold a hammer and turn a screwdriver are mysteries for many youth. The lack of basic skills and work ethic is causing problems in a number of trades from engineering and architecture to all of the construction and auto trades. The decline relates to a number of changes over the past 50 years from the decline in shop classes to the reliance on computers to a lack of developmental skills in babies children who spend less time on the ground exploring objects and more with computerized games. The only solution seems to be a return to the basics. Read article here.