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Category: Energy and Environment

Winds of Change: Saskatchewan’s attitudes on Energy, Environment and Oil

As the second largest oil-producer in the country and home to a government that has vigorously promoted the oil industry and firmly opposed carbon pricing, one might assume that the Saskatchewan public is relatively united in their support for fossil fuel extraction. Winds of Change: Public Opinion on Energy Politics in Saskatchewan by Andrea Olive, Emily Eaton and Randy Besco demonstrates that the Saskatchewan public may not be as wedded to a future with fossil fuels as we might think. This report presents some surprising results of public opinion polling of 500 adult Saskatchewan residents on issues of oil extraction, environment, and climate change in the province. The results show that people living in Saskatchewan support a transition away from fossil fuels and agree that the government should invest more in solar and wind power while strengthening environmental regulations. The results of this study indicate that there is more room in the province for discussion around energy issues than is often assumed. Opinions could be changing in the province and politicians would be smart to invest in long-term strategic thinking about a transition to alternative energy.

Andrea Olive is an associate professor of political science and geography at the University of Toronto Mississauga. She is the author of two books, Land, Stewardship and Legitimacy: Endangered Species Policy in Canada and the United States and The Canadian Environment in Political Context. Her main areas of research include wildlife conservation, Canada-US environmental policy, and the environment-energy nexus.

Emily Eaton is an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Regina. She is the author of two books, Fault Lines: Life and Landscape in Saskatchewan’s Oil Economy (with photographer Valerie Zink) and Growing Resistance: Canadian Farmers and the Politics of Genetically Modified Wheat. Her main areas of research include natural resource economies, especially oil and agriculture, and ecology.

Randy Besco is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto Mississauga. He is the author of a forthcoming book entitled Interests and Identities in Racialized Voting. His main areas of research are elections and public opinion.

Click to read the report.

Saskatchewan Speaks: Policy Recommendations for Transformational Change

In December, SaskForward began an online public consultation process that asked people across the province to answer the question, “What ‘transformational change’ would you introduce to make Saskatchewan a happier, healthier, and more prosperous place for all?”

After receiving over one hundred submissions from individuals and organizations and hosting a policy summit and discussion with over 120 participants, SaskForward releases Saskatchewan Speaks: Policy Recommendations for Transformational Change. This report puts forward a series of policy recommendations based on the ideas and suggestions Saskatchewan people shared with us.

Three key messages emerged from the ideas shared with us during the consultation process. The first is that public spending that addresses the root causes of social problems needs to be viewed as an investment that will save us money in the long run. While cuts to social spending may improve balance sheets in the short-term, they will create long-lasting health and social impacts that outweigh any initial cost-saving. Indeed, there was widespread consensus that social program cuts – even in spite of the current deficit – were ill-advised and counter-productive to the overall health of the province.

The second message that emerged from the submissions was that respondents want to see much more emphasis on new revenue streams and sources. Saskatchewan’s revenues as a share of GDP have declined from 22.4 percent in 2007 to 17 percent in 2015. Respondents were unified in their call for the government to consider new revenue sources, with a strong preference for increased progressivity in the provincial income tax system.

Lastly, there was a real appetite for a grand vision for the province, particularly in regards to energy and the environment. Many respondents believe that Saskatchewan – with its ample renewable resources and provincial crown corporations – is uniquely situated to take advantage of the nascent green energy economy given the appropriate direction and investment by the provincial government.

Despite the province’s current economic woes, there was a tremendous optimism in the ability of the province to become a more just and sustainable place in the future. We want to thank the people of Saskatchewan for sharing their visions for the province with SaskForward. We certainly hope the government and the rest of the Saskatchewan public will seriously consider the thoughtful and inspiring ideas we have collected in this report.

Download the full report: SaskForward – Sask Speaks (03-15-17)-4

Don Kossick on Corporate Tax Evasion

Make Cameco Pay Up

Saskatchewan citizens are conducting an ongoing campaign to have Cameco – one of the largest uranium companies in the world – pay the $2.2 billion bill that it has accumulated in unpaid taxes.

Cameco has dodged every attempt to have them pay the people of Canada and Saskatchewan what they have stolen. In a story on April 25th, 2016, The National Observer asked if Cameco has “engineer[ed] the largest tax dodge in Canadian History.”

Through donations to hospitals, sponsorship of charitable causes, and bringing in performers like Sarah McLachlin, Cameco has perfected its “Cameco Cares” image of social responsibility. The flip side is much darker. Despite enormous profits over many years – with the help of a tax avoidance scheme, Cameco has caused disruption in the lives of many communities of northern Saskatchewan. Last year the Rabbit Lake mine was closed down, resulting in the loss of 500 jobs. More recently, another 120 jobs have been lost in Cameco operations at the Cigar Lake, McArthur River, and Key Lake mines. Half of people working for Cameco in the North are First Nations or Metis.

Cameco argues they are not making enough money.

The Moteley Fool, a financial advisory web page, describes how Cameco works its finances: “During a six-year period ending in 2012 Cameco’s Canadian operations racked up a cumulative $1.3 billion in losses. Meanwhile, over the same period, the company’s Swiss subsidiary recorded $4.3 billion in profits.” What exactly is going on?

It all dates back to 1999. Cameco set up a subsidiary in Luxembourg, eventually moving it to a low-tax jurisdiction in Switzerland. It then entered into a 17-year contract with that subsidiary, one that would see Cameco’s Canadian operations sell its uranium to its Swiss subsidiary. The price per pound would be fixed for the entire time and “reflected market conditions,” as put by CFO Grant Isaac in 2013.

As the Motley Fool explains, “When the uranium price was severely depressed in 1999, the company’s executives thought this price would rise. They were absolutely right. As a result, Cameco’s Canadian operations began selling uranium for below-market value, resulting in losses. Meanwhile, the Swiss subsidiary was able to buy at below-market prices, ensuring big profits. These big profits faced minimal taxes.”

Cameco is before a CRA court right now to ascertain their guilt in this method of tax avoidance. CRA started looking at Cameco in 2006 – taking ten years and many delays to get to this point. A petition campaign supported by Canadians for Tax Fairness, Sum of Us, and Saskatchewan Citizens for Tax Fairness received over 36,000 signatures. It called on the Federal and Provincial governments to have Cameco pay up.

Cameco’s tentacles go wide and deep in controlling any sort of opposition in Saskatchewan. During a recent Cameco lockout of workers a short video was done on the line interviewing Cameco workers. For one day it circulated on the internet and contained a comment about health and safety conditions in the mines. A worker asked that it be taken down out of deep concern about Cameco’s reaction.

Even though Saskatchewan is in the midst of an economic crisis Premier Wall refuses to pursue the monies owed by Cameco to the Province of Saskatchewan. An estimated 800 million or more could come back if Cameco paid what they owe. That would certainly take the pressure off all the cutbacks and other destructions happening to Saskatchewan’s social and other infrastructures, and particularly communities in northern Saskatchewan. When one sees the closure of the Nortep program in northern Saskatchewan, the community of La Loche still waiting for crisis support services and people who can find housing to live in their community, the freeze and cut backs on 64,000 government workers, the ending of the affordable housing program, cutbacks on healthy baby/healthy mother programs etc – one sees the trail of destruction of Cameco not paying up the millions upon millions they owe to the Saskatchewan people.

The Premier of Saskatchewan has lauded Cameco as the driver of development in the northern Saskatchewan. In 2013 he described Cameco as the best program for First Nations and Metis people. But, seeing Cameco leading them through a boom and bust economy, communities in northern Saskatchewan are asking for much more.

In response to the most recent Cameco cutbacks, Bucky Belanger, NDP MLA in northern Saskatchewan, underscored “the need to expand tourism, forestry, oil and gas development and other industries in the north”.

The problem with areas of “development” such as oil, gas, and forestry is that they still are a part of a boom and bust economy and extract resources from a community without giving much back.

In the late 1900’s there were some real efforts to bring communities of the North together to look at how they would build their own Indigenous economy that would support jobs and resource wealth staying in the north. There is a real need to revive and build on those discussions. A northern economic and social plan done by and with communities of the North would go a long way in reducing the dependency on multi-national corporations that extract but do not give back.

The Cameco situation raises important concerns and questions for Saskatchewan citizens about tax evasion, and Cameco’s sales of uranium internationally also raise serous moral questions that Saskatchewan citizens need to address. The uranium sale a year ago to India – and lauded by Premier Wall- was to a country that has refused to sign the nuclear non proliferation treaty.

Cameco should be answerable and accountable on many fronts including tax dodging, the instability of communities that rely on Cameco as a single source of employment, the health and safety of uranium miners and their communities, the impact on the environment of uranium extraction, and the potential dangers of selling uranium on international markets.

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Summit Panel: Hayley Carlson

Transformation in an Era of Climate Change

Across Canada people hear “Saskatchewan” and we are often dismissed as flat and boring. But Saskatchewan is so much more than this. We are home to the beautiful Athabasca Lake, surrounded by the most northerly active sand dune formation on earth and home to several species of plants that are found no where else in the world. Saskatchewan too, is home to the Cumberland Delta, the largest inland freshwater Delta in North America at 10,000 km and nationally significant wildlife area. And Saskatchewan is also home to many rare species, such as the Swift Fox, a species that thrives on our native prairie.

However, Saskatchewan’s historical approach to the environment has threatened all of these things. The abandoned Gunnar uranium mine on the north shore of Lake Athabasca has been leaching toxic chemicals into the lake for the past 50 years. Dams along the Saskatchewan River and other human impacts are causing the Cumberland Delta to dry up and wildlife populations to decline. Land conversion and habitat fragmentation has made native prairie the most endangered ecosystem in the world. Less than 21 per cent of Saskatchewan’s original native prairie remains.

Environmental issues like these don’t exist in isolation, they are closely linked to those of health, of economy, of indigenous-settler relations and of social justice.

In Saskatchewan, our economy has been traditionally dependent on extractive resource industries that are now struggling and taking us from boom to bust. We’re currently experiencing wide-spread concern about loss of government revenue, cuts to public services, about jobs, and we are feeling a sense of fear and despair.

Unfortunately, environmental health is widely viewed as incompatible with economic security. The latter is seen as the priority, leading to an assumption that environmental risks must be accepted. There is a reluctance to regulate, and a failure to take the concept of “sustainable development” seriously.

Our economy is also very emissions-intensive. In many ways, climate change is an issue that dwarfs all others, and certainly exacerbates them. It really is an existential threat that has the power to fundamentally change our way of life. To me, it seems impossible to truly transform our province without considering transformation in the context of climate change, especially considering the next few decades are critical windows of opportunity for climate action. We are the highest greenhouse gas emitter per capita, and per unit of GDP in Canada, and we have no effective plan in place that either will reduce our emissions or prepare our province for an era of climate change.

We’re also very vulnerable to climate change. Although, in the short term Saskatchewan might experience benefits such as a longer growing season, our province is facing increasing risks from severe weather, crop failure, floods and drought, invasive species, forest fires, and threats to human health and to our infrastructure. These changes will affect the most vulnerable among us the most, those who are on the front lines directly depending on the land for a way of life, and the land itself.

We are all a part of this picture; our personal lives are very dependent on fossil fuels. It is hard to do anything in Saskatchewan without relying on them – turning on a light, heating our homes or even driving to the SaskFoward Policy Summit. We also have families who depend on fossil fuels and resource extraction for their livelihoods, and we all rely on resource revenues to fund important public services. These are real concerns we need to address in any sort of transformation.

Overall, Saskatchewan seems to be experiencing a sense of paralysis when it comes to this challenge, and a lack of inspiring and innovative leadership in government, commerce, education. But how can we transform this picture? I don’t have all the answers, but I hope to suggest a few.

A robust climate change strategy is the most important and the most urgent of the many environmental issues facing Saskatchewan – and because of what we need to do to address it, a proper climate strategy will have implications for all of the other issues we are talking about today. First we need to reduce emissions from our largest emitting sectors of Oil and Gas Mining, Electricity, Transportation and Agriculture, which collectively produce 92% of our provincial GHG emissions. From a policy perspective, it is easier to tackle emissions in some of these sectors relative to others.

Until now, carbon capture and storage technology has been the preferred strategy to address climate change in our province. However, our investment into this technology fundamentally reinforces the status quo, and is proving increasingly risky. It cannot be the way forward if we want to truly transform our province.

Instead it would be wise to target the electricity sector as an opportunity for major emission reductions. This would include planning for a complete coal phase-out by 2030 at the latest, and aggressively pursuing low carbon energy production paired with energy efficiency.

Saskatchewan has world-class solar and wind potential that many independent businesses and entrepreneurs are waiting for additional opportunities to develop. SaskPower should plan to significantly increase planned capacity for renewables by 2030 rather than relying on natural gas for additional energy capacity.

Saskatchewan should also look to other sources of energy production, such as co-generation in potash mines, installing micro-turbines at productive wellheads to capture natural gas or importing additional hydro-power from Manitoba. In fact, the federal government has recently indicated federal funding would be available for green energy projects such as inter-provincial transmission lines.

We should not forget demand-side management. Energy efficiency has been shown to be a great job creator – for tradespeople, for technologists, for energy auditors, for suppliers of materials, and for transit system workers. Low-cost programs that provide incentives for energy efficiency could include building code changes, investing into the education or retraining of building tradespeople and architects, and the upfronting of costs of energy retrofits by utilities, costs that would be gradually repaid by building owners on their monthly power bills.

It is within our reach to transform our electricity grid if we choose to do so, and there are a variety of policy mechanisms our government can employ to encourage this transformation. One such policy is a feed-in-tariff under which customers who install renewable power generators receive a price for the electricity they produce that reflects that actual installation costs plus a modest profit. Alternatively, Saskatchewan could also incentivize this electricity transformation through carbon pricing and revenue recycling, or a flexible regulations such as requiring Saskpower to generate 90% of electricity from near-zero or zero-emission sources by 2030.

In our oil and gas sector, a great opportunity for emission-reduction is the adoption of venting and flaring regulations in the oilfield, such as the proposed federal regulations that would target a 45 per cent reduction in methane emissions by 2025. Fugitive methane emissions from the oil and gas sector alone contribute 17 per cent (13 Million tonnes) to Saskatchewan’s annual greenhouse gas emissions – regulations like these could lower our emission by nearly 6 million tonnes annually (5 million tonnes more than the $1.5 billion unit equipped with carbon capture and storage at Boundary Dam).

Transportation and agriculture are two sectors where it is more difficult to design public policies but we could employ a variety of strategies to reduce emissions from Saskatchewan’s transportation sector, including things like encouraging a shift to rail transport, working with municipalities to develop convenient and reliable public transit services, and providing incentives for the purchase and use of highly energy efficient vehicles. Additional efforts need to be directed into working with our rural residents to identify how they can be a part of climate strategy while strengthening our rural and urban communities against climate change impacts. In the event of a carbon price, some revenue could be recycled into these efforts.

At the same time, we must enact policies that will build the resilience of our ecosystems against the challenges posed by climate change. Our loss of biodiversity needs to be addressed at two levels. First, it requires that we increase the number and size of ecologically significant landscapes that have protected status. It also requires that in those areas where development is allowed, we strengthen our environmental assessment and regulatory processes so that damage to nature is minimized. Environmental assessment needs to be undertaken both at a regional, cumulative level that looks at all of the impacts on a geographical region and on a project-specific level that considers the impacts associated with a particular development proposal. While the long term vision is to transition to a post-fossil fuel society, in the short-term Saskatchewan will need stronger regulations around pipeline construction and operation in order to avoid more episodes like the recent pipeline spills in the North Saskatchewan River, or on Ocean Man First Nation lands. Among other things, pipelines should be monitored by the Ministry of Environment and subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment, constructed with heavier walls and with the latest spill-detection technology, and monitored regularly with improved emergency response and transparency in spill reporting.

The health of Saskatchewan’s water resources is also closely tied to climate change. Our water is currently adequate, but vulnerable. Most of the province’s residents rely on the South Saskatchewan River in the semi-arid south to meet their personal and economics needs. Climate change will alter the processes of precipitation accumulation and melt, change the timing of flow and lead to a general decrease in water availability. Saskatchewan has attempted to address some of these challenges with creation of Water Security Agency, but more needs to be done including a development of a drought contingency plan and planning for water allocations during times of drought. Water infrastructure such as dams should also be upgraded to higher safety standards in anticipation of climate variability.

Doing all of these things is not just about reducing emissions or our impact on the environment, it is about preparing our province to succeed in a post-fossil fuel world, where I imagine we might live with less, but live better. If I am lucky enough to live to be 100 years old, it will be 2091, so I would be very much alive to see the consequences of our choices in the next few years. Fortunately, I think we have both the way and the will to make the changes we need to make.

I also firmly believe that if we want different public policies, we have to change the way we create them. Top-down, expert-driven and specialized approaches are characteristic of traditional methods of governance, but are not engaging people in the way they need to be. When we create policy this way, we are making choices that are consistent with only one way of seeing the world and not truly serving our diverse population. Moving beyond traditional ways of making decisions will not mean determining the most likely future for Saskatchewan, but rather involves deciding what kind of future we collectively desire. We need to ask where our province is ultimately heading, who is gaining and losing from our choices, what mechanisms of power are behind our decisions, and is growth desirable. This will involve frank discussion around values and power, but we cannot shy away from having the hard conversations we undoubtedly need to have to transform this province.

I believe this process is a good step in the right direction.

 

Hayley Carlson, Policy Coordinator and Ann Coxworth, Researcher | Saskatchewan Environmental Society

Kisiskatchewan Water Alliance Network on pipeline safety and protection of water

 

The last seven months – July 2016 – January 2017 – has seen two major oil spills in Saskatchewan. This has prompted important reactions about the safety of pipelines both existing and in development. It has galvanized communities to take action against the pipeline dependence that is destroying environments and clean water sources for many communities.

Shortly after the disastrous Husky spill on the North Saskatchewan River, Canoe Lake Indigenous Environmental activist leader Emil Bell went on a hunger strike demanding accountability from Husky and the Saskatchewan government, and a true record of what happened with the Husky spill.

Emil Bell’s hunger strike lead to various actions against Husky. The Kisiskatchewan Water Alliance Network was formed linking Indigenous and non Indigenous communities in opposition to the damage to critical water sources in Saskatchewan.

Tyrone Tootoosis, spokesperson for the Kisiskatchewan Water Alliance Network said, “water is life, people and communities want to know how to avoid these disastrous spills and who is accountable and responsible for what has happened.

We need to understand that this Husky catastrophe could happen to any body of water and we need citizen oversight on what the oil companies and the governments are doing. Water, the environment, and communities are too precious to have their interests subordinated to the interests of oil companies”, said Tyrone Tootoosis.

Indigenous communities along the Saskatchewan River System which falls within Treaty 6 territory took action.

“Due to the slow response by Husky and lack of transparency during the containment and cleanup process, the James Smith Cree Nation has decided to take its own mitigation measures and conduct its own sampling. They have expressed that their way of life has been impacted by the spill and that contaminants have been found in lake sturgeon spawning grounds. As a Sovereign Nation, we have taken it upon ourselves to take action and clean our river.” -James Smith Cree Nation (www.jamessmithcreenation.com).

Because of the lack of information or analysis coming from Husky and the Wall government an Independent Water Study was carried out in August by E Tech International Hydrologist Richardo Segovia. The study was supported by Idle No More, Public Service Alliance of Canada (Prairie Region) and the Council of Canadians.

Richardo Segovia’s team spent four days travelling the length of the spill along the North Saskatchewan River, speaking with residents, and collecting some sediment samples at strategic locations.

The study questioned the delayed response which resulted in the spilled oil going 500 kilometers downstream to Cumberland Lake contaminating drinking water for communities from North Battleford, Prince Albert, James Smith First Nation, Nipawin. (Months later Husky has given no adequate explanation for a 14 hour delay dealing with the oil spill.)

Richardo Segovia’s work pointed out, “Husky has not been open with technical information during the spill response. Despite the fact that they have taken thousands of water samples, the public still has not had access to any of the lab results. Instead, residents have had to trust Husky’s own summaries of exceedances of allowable contaminant limits and cleanup efforts. They have not taken any samples beyond Prince Albert, about 375 km downstream, even though contamination has been reported more than 500 km downstream.”

The Independent Water Study also states, “one major flaw in Husky’s sampling program is that they are only analyzing water. The separation of diluted crude into its lighter and heavier components causes some of the contaminants to end up attached to suspended river sediments and deposited on the river bottom, especially as time goes on. Husky is missing a major part of the contamination in not sampling sediments and could be leaving behind a toxic legacy for years to come.”

In a public statement E-Tech hydrogeologist Ricardo Segovia, warned that the hydrocarbons detected in sediment along the river are “very, very nasty” and could persist for years. He says, “You can’t go back to the way things were before … because there’s that chance that (contaminants) can be stirred up from the sediments, you have to be constantly monitoring those water intakes for the next several years at least.”

Although this study was conducted last summer it leaves some disturbing questions such as the long term effect of the oil in the sediment, how far the oil has travelled down the Saskatchewan River, and the release of hydro carbons from the spill affecting wild life and human communities.

On September 18th the Kisiskatchewan Water Alliance Network organized a Rally for Water in Saskatoon that had hundreds in attendance. Guest speakers included David Suzuki, Water for Life leader Christi Belcourt, Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief of the Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs, Ricardo Segovia.

Demands made at the Rally for Water included:

  1. Respect and adhere to rights and obligations of water use and flow on Indigenous lands and territories.
  2. Conduct a public Independent Inquiry into the Husky oil disaster.
  3. Do an Independent Audit on the real costs of the Husky Disaster – now and future costs.
  4. Establish an arms length independent watch dog to monitor and report on the safety to the public of oil pipe lines, oil wells and fracking in Saskatchewan.
  5. Demand that the government of Saskatchewan introduce the strongest environmental safety regulations and regulatory power over the extraction and movement of resources such as oil.
  6. Support and encourage the abilities and resources of communities to do their own assessments of water quality and preserving clean water sources.
  7. Build alliances for safe, clean water and water preservation community to community.
  8. Turn Saskatchewan from a petro-state to one of renewable energy use.

Subsequent to these calls for action the Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) in December 2016 called for an independent third party investigation that would take the form of a public inquiry. It would look at the actions of Husky and the provincial government as well as the broad environmental implications of the spill and its effects on local communities and First Nations. SES also called on the provincial government for more stringent safeguards, including environmental oversight, better inspection and emergency protocols, and more modern spill detection equipment.

In this same month the Wall government refused the request of the Privacy Commissioner for information on five years of pipeline inspections.

In January 2017 the next great oil spill took place of 200,000 litres on the Ocean Man First Nation Land. Undetected for days from a 49 year old pipe line that had never been inspected, and only discovered by a smell. The government was extremely slow in making it public – a three day delay.

With the planned announcement of moving the Enbridge Line 3 across southern Saskatchewan these spills and cover ups by oil companies and the provincial government show how threatening the pipelines will be to communities and the environment.

Kisiskatchewan Water Alliance Network has called for intervention from outside this province for a probe on the oil spills and most importantly how communities can be defended. An alliance – inside and outside of Saskatchewan – demanding to know what has happened and will happen in Saskatchewan will be critical in withstanding the heavy pressure for pipelines across Canada. Such an alliance would have its base water for life and link Indigenous and non Indigenous communities and would be a strong potent for resistance and change to a non fossil fuel based economy and society.

Don Kossick, member, Kisiskatchewan Water Alliance Network

Committee for Future Generations on True Stewardship

 

 

Indigenous Authority Over Their Lands: True Stewards

Northern Saskatchewan has a population that is 80% Cree, Dene and Metis. Northern communities maintain a strong relationship with the lands, rivers and lakes of the boreal forest we call home. The lands and water are intrinsically tied to the physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of the people.

Since the inception of the colonial institution called Saskatchewan, the Original People have faced trauma through the decimation of the population from diseases introduced by fur traders, the kidnapping, abuse and indoctrination through residential schools, and the continuous theft of lands and resources through the shady legislation, the NRTA (Natural Resources Transfer Act) in 1930. Every single community has been left with intergenerational issues that have not been addressed.

When the government of Canada gave away the lands and resources to the province of Saskatchewan without the agreement or even consultation of the Cree and Dene Treaty partners, they intentionally set up the process to force the Original People of the north to lose their autonomy. This is ongoing, as the Indigenous people are pushed into dependence on the ‘Boom and Bust’ resource extraction economy, which decimates the lands and waters.

The provinces designated the north as ‘Open for Sale’, and northerners whose cultural values of taking care of the land in the best interests of the next seven generations, are becoming ever more stressed, as they see once pristine waters becoming contaminated. Industrial development is scarring the lands, erasing ancestral presence and making some places permanent sacrifice zones.

We are the fastest-growing population in the province. Northerners are intentionally kept on the edge of poverty due to inequitable opportunities and spending rendered on the part of both the provincial and federal governments. Jurisdictional issues further confuse and divide services. Yet, billions of dollars worth of resource commodities are remove from our homelands annually. Forests are literally disappearing down the road, while every northern community has a shortage of adequate housing. We observe how the province has turned a blind eye to corporations like Cameco, which for years has avoided paying billions of dollars in taxes.

The time is long past due for the knowledge of Cree, Dene and Metis land users of the limitations of living systems on their lands, to over rule that of governments. The influx of industrial development and resource extraction is taking a heavy toll. This is having a global impact. These ecosystems contain a great portion of the world’s fresh water. The trees and muskegs are a living part of that. They also provide the key to carbon capture if left intact.

People who live close to the land notice the extreme changes in climate. Indicators from the plant and animal world are no longer able to predict the weather. Eons of traditional science knowledge has been rendered useless by climate change within the last two decades. As climate change progresses, extremes are going to have an increasing impact.

The Saskatchewan government has failed repeatedly to respect the Original People’s knowledge in the consultation process on resource development projects. The government approves exploration and Environment Impact Assessments on Indigenous lands, regardless of and prior to, consent or concern on the impacts this has on the Dene, Cree and Metis land use. When northern people say “No” to these projects, we are looking long term, beyond the economic trade deals. We have a duty to look after land, air and water for the benefit of all future generations.

The federal government has embarked on studying the concept of a Northern Corridor, which would be a several kilometer wide cleared swath running seven thousand kilometers across northern Canada.  In Saskatchewan, it is proposed to begin one hundred kilometers north of La Loche in the northwest, through the Athabasca Basin and splitting north towards the Port of Churchill and east to northern Manitoba. It would include a highway, rail line, pipelines, electrical transmission lines and telecommunication lines. The authors of the proposal, the University of Calgary School of Public Policy, claim this would lower the cost of groceries for northern residents. They also claim this would leave the lightest environmental footprint, while cutting the cost of northern development. The Northern Corridor is, in reality, a thinly-veiled plan for cutting the cost for corporations to move the resources they extract from our north to ports to the international markets. It would open the north to exploitation and increase the environmental impacts as more resource extraction would seize the opportunity.

The authors suggest that legislation be enacted to enable the entire project to be subject to only ONE environmental impact assessment, over all jurisdictions nationally to fast track its completion.

Part of the purpose of the Northern Corridor is to free the southern transportation system in the heavily populated south from being put at risk by using the northern route as the Dangerous Goods Route. This corridor would be totally disruptive to a highly sensitive landscape. The prospect of rail cars, vehicle traffic, and pipelines carrying hazardous materials across thousands of rivers, lakes and muskegs is an environmental nightmare in the making, 3 especially with the weak safety records and minimal cleanup response already evident in this province and country.

This is another made in the south project, which has been hinted at by the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, with little to no input from the Indigenous people whose lands are being targeted. This colonial patronizing viewpoint offers little but further exploitation. In order to get around the indisputable truth that the provinces do not own these lands, the policy designers are suggesting that Indigenous peoples be enticed to partner in to the hundred billion dollar project.

Considering all of the issues that have been imposed on Indigenous people, the impacts, both socioeconomic and environmental, would greatly exacerbate the problems.

Indigenous people must have final authority, as actual true stewards, over what development takes place on their lands and waters, and have the authority to regulate it. Northerners need to develop community and regionals plans, and have those plans respected and supported by the province. Corporate interests have no place, and should not be allowed to influence, the current and future Indigenous leaders to override their people’s values, interests and government systems, with corporate governance programs, such as they have at the University of Saskatchewan, in the Cameco-sponsored Aboriginal Governance and Northern Development.

Energy

Our province’s name is Cree, meaning swift-flowing water. Saskatchewan could champion renewable energy by harnessing the abundant kinetic energy of our rivers, the winds, as well as that readily available in our long hours of sunlight.

With the effects of climate change already manifesting themselves worldwide, including in the northern Boreal forests where sparse precipitation has contributed to unprecedented wildfires, maintaining a fossil fuel energy course is both morally and financially irresponsible. It is imperative that all building codes be immediately revised to implement energy efficient designs and practices, such as passive hausing and the use of solar panels.

At the same time, we must denounce the uranium industry’s (and the current provincial government’s) attempt to sell nuclear energy as the “green solution” to the fossil fuel dilemma. Besides contributing significantly to fossil fuel emissions throughout the entire fuel chain, the undeniable fact remains that the byproduct of nuclear energy is, in comparison, by far the most extremely hazardous and long-lasting threat to life on the planet, extending into millions of years.

As is the case with most fuel industries, much of the raw product lies buried in traditional Indigenous lands. Companies including Cenovus and Cameco have targeting vulnerable Aboriginal administrations down to a science, resulting in highly controversial “agreements” for resource extraction signed behind closed doors. By the time the general population finds out, it is too late, and political pressure attempts to silence dissenters.

Indigenous communities worldwide are also being targeted from the other end of the nuclear fuel chain, with the burial of deadly waste product on their traditional territories. The years of “site selection process” imposed by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization on the northern Saskatchewan communities of Pinehouse, English River First Nation and Creighton, served to tear those communities apart as administrations and certain “liaisons” were bribed into pushing the process through. The pain and grief of division left in NWMO’s wake in some cases may never be resolved. The nuclear waste burial was touted to be shallow to allow retrieval and reprocessing of the nuclear fission rods to extract plutonium by dissolving them in acid, creating an even deadlier byproduct. Despite a petition with over 20,000 signatures delivered to the Saskatchewan Legislature in 2012, we are still waiting for a provincial ban on the storage and transportation of nuclear waste in and through Saskatchewan.

We must have a provincial energy policy that serves people as opposed to industry. Elon Musk’s advancing solar battery technology is already precipitating an energy revolution: independence from the electrical grid. In the same way, we must move to community-based energy supply, as opposed to dependence on industry – “energy sovereignty” – if you will. We need policy that weans us off fossil fuels while at the same time creating infrastructure to capture and utilize renewable energies. Mark Bigland Pritchard and Peter Prebble, in their Green Energy Plan, have already written the script for this to happen. We must have an energy policy that prohibits the bribing of vulnerable populations into sacrificing their sacred lands. Ultimately, we need policy that is socially AND environmentally responsible, two things inseparable in the Indigenous way of knowing. It honours and protects the wellbeing of seven generations ahead.

Restoring Well Communities

Since the inception of the colonial institution called Saskatchewan, Indigenous peoples have faced trauma through the decimation of the population from disease, kidnapping, abuse and indoctrination through residential schools, and the theft of lands and resources through the 1930 Natural Resources Transfer Agreement (NRTA) that continues to this day. The result has been intergenerational impact in every northern community, namely ongoing grief and trauma manifesting itself in family dysfunction, addictions, misdiagnosed learning disabilities and widespread mental health issues.

“Indigenous” has recently become a global catchword to describe healing practices founded in earth-based spirituality. We are fortunate to still have people among us who have come about that paradigm honestly, ie directly inheriting the world view, knowledge and skills from their 5 ancestors to genuinely carry it out. However, from an Indigenous viewpoint, every person innately carries this relationship with the earth, as we simply would not exist without the life provided by it. “Wellness” therefore, is something to be restored, not learned from scratch.

There are northern health professionals who have already established successful, trusted working relationships from the bottom up with youth, parents, families, communities and other professionals across the north, in Indigenous healing practices. This essentially means they are local, effective, inclusive and ongoing. They include upstream, proactive measures designed to build positive identity, confidence, dignity and leadership. However, in the present colonialized system, existing policy across a multiplicity of agencies and organizations makes possible the undermining of locally-developed services, as “proven” as they might be. Funding continues to be applied top-down – from the outside in -perpetuating ineffective practices of engagement, diagnosis, unrealistic strategies and lack of continuity. One example is the mailing of referral letters to people whose health conditions have rendered them so vulnerable as to be living on the street, pre-empting the possibility of ever receiving mail, let alone following through to attend a series of 30-minute one-on-one appointments booked in offices several hours away in the city. Yet, the fact that there’s a paper trail referring the individual to a psychiatrist, allows the lie of accountability to continue.

Restoring well communities means that every individual within that community is viewed as valuable, capable and deserving of the best care possible. Although northern Saskatchewan has some of the highest rates of suicide and drug/alcohol addictions in the country, there is not one wellness center. Our population of Elders is increasing dramatically, yet our northern communities have little or no facilities which allow them to maintain quality of life close to their families, while accommodating their higher level health needs. Despite a comprehensive, eight-year study by a northern health board which unequivocally determined the exact infrastructure required within every community on the northwest side to deliver quality health care to local residents, political interference at the eleventh hour resulted in the announcement of a huge hospital to be built in only one of those communities, literally abandoning the rest. That hospital now operates as little more than a holding facility for patients destined to be shipped south, while people and health staff in surrounding communities continue to languish in decades-old, moulding clinics.

On-the-land health practices, by definition, require a healthy land base in which to take place. However, colonial government policies past and present have systematically displaced Indigenous peoples from their land to make way for industry to enter and remove “resources” such as uranium, trees and oil. Traditional territories have been rendered into sacrifice zones where people who populated it for generations become trespassers on their own lands. Locals have referred to the land as their church, and their hospital, yet we are seeing it increasingly mined and clear cut. Industries bribe Aboriginal administrations into signing so-called 6 “agreements” behind closed doors, which are done deals before the population finds out about them. Subsequent “public consultation meetings” are held, while the industry is already hauling the resources off the land. Uranium companies Cameo and Areva are allowed access to youth across the northern school division, conducting aptitude tests in classrooms to determine suitability for work in the mines. Positions underground and in the mill, the most highly radioactive places, are almost entirely held by Aboriginal youth. Mine workers disclose serious safety breaches in private, but refuse to do so publicly for fear of losing their jobs. Health professionals refuse to conduct comprehensive health studies, apparently because we don’t have a sufficient population base. Regulatory bodies such as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission apply the ALARA principle – “As Low As Reasonably Achievable”, and phrases such as “less than severe” and “non life-threatening” to minimalize impact. Public information sessions show slideshows of utopian green cartoon trees growing over contaminated sites, while at the same time reports come in from other former mine sites of contaminated groundwater, plants and even muscle and bone tissues of large game animals such as moose and deer. Generations of families suffer from increased cancer rates, with the only explanation given as “smoking”, even though the cancers are not all originated in the lungs. All the above is strategically supported by existing government policies, and serve to seriously undermine control over our own effective healing in the north.

Besides all the aspects of community health, a valuable initiative to re-vitalize would be the Healthy Community networking concept. Health Canada introduced this in the 90’s when the Northern Village of Beauval was offered funding for community development. This included the services of two community development facilitators, training, several community gatherings, funding for a Healthy Community coordinator, and expenses to attend national and international Healthy Community conferences. In cooperation with the local municipal office, the coordinator facilitated networking by community agencies, resulted in many improvements. Regular input from community gatherings surfaced needs for services such as an Addiction centre, Kids First, and Head Start.

National networking involved exchange of information with other communities across the country in the project, mostly rural and aboriginal, and the sharing of inspiring ideas. The International Americas Conference was in Quebec City, and reps from each Healthy Community attended. North and South Americas now exchanged ideas and scenarios, and learned strategies and geography.

This is a specific example how funding can be used toward community development, with far reaching effects. Almost 30 years later, the Northern Village of Beauval still has its Kids First and Head Start school, and continues to hold weekly Interagency meetings, with the intent of 7 building community through sharing information. National and International gatherings of community representatives could also still result in benefits. Truly effective healing must be led by northerners themselves, with both provincial and federal governments in supportive roles, namely funding long term community-based healing programs and removing barriers created by colonial socio-economic policies.

Housing and Infrastructure

In northern Saskatchewan there is a severe shortage of housing, yet we are surrounded by building material and have an abundance of capable young adults in need of a purpose. What could be more purposeful than constructing your own home, which would then have the added bonus of ownership, pride, and dignity that comes along with it.

We need housing policies that allow for communities to set their own standards which address specific needs, instead of being constricted by unrealistic laws and codes. For example, one northern village determined through a comprehensive, bottom-up consultative process, that small (600 square feet) two-bedroom homes with the ability to add on if necessary would be the ideal unit type for their community, which had a large population of young single parents in need of housing.

Another example is, to be totally realistic, the whole concept of house insurance should get tossed out the window. Most low income families, or single young adults can’t afford insurance anyway. If the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation is allowed the option of foregoing insurance for its hundreds of units due to the expense, then shouldn’t individual homeowners be given that same choice?

Rather than logging companies cutting down timber on our traditional territories and hauling it out of our region, the practice of selective logging for local use could be re-implemented. Each community could be supplied with the equipment required to log selectively and mill the lumber into building materials. Local youth would be trained in energy-efficient construction, including the installation of solar panels, and the necessary trades. Four houses could be heated by one outdoor woodstove, the maintenance of which would also create sustainable local employment.

Elders in the community could be cared for in much the same way, with an elders residence also built to be energy efficient and heated with the appropriate number of outdoor woodstoves. Each community should be provided a state-of-the-art medical clinic attached to the elders residence, with the appropriate number of acute care beds. Every community should  be provided with the means to administer Level 4 care for its Elders within that community, to allow for ongoing family support.

Assisted living for those with addiction and mental health issues is a must in every community. These would also operate according to local policies.

To improve infrastructure, communities must immediately be given the means to permanently access a clean water supply. Northern communities are regularly subjected to massive power outages, which could be resolved by implementing local energy sources such as solar, wind and water. Policies affecting small business need to change to support success, for example start-up cost and tax breaks. Locally-sourced food such as wild game and fish should be able to be sold and served in local restaurants, without the hindrance of government regulations. In most of our communities, malnutrition and even starvation are too close for comfort. The dependence on food being shipped up to us is a risk we can no longer afford.

Culturally-Valued Education

The present educational system, in special areas, like the foundations, philosophy and axioms, is not strong in the element of learning for life’s sake.

The old and made-irrelevant features of ancient Indigenous world views, based on the pure sciences of interaction with the natural world and its cosmological directive, is hardly a part of the colonial impetus that is today’s meaning of education. The conditioning apparatus of the present system has very little and abiding meaning except for the promotion of a livelihood, which means, the lands/waters destructive companies can have their way, which they have. There is no argument when a very exciting subject matter like nuclear science, bio-tech, and myriad topics, are omitted in classrooms and only “jobs” is being implemented into the learning strategies of curriculum in Native schools.

Whosoever has the control of today’s education, also has the control over a people. True to form, what our parents taught us in the camps,, backed up by ancient premises already developed down the ages, is the mainstay of what a learning is, and to be reinforced if such a colonial dictum is to be destroyed.

Treatise has been developed by genuinely Indigenous educators which will require careful reading, and have also been placed into practicum. Numerous strategies have been applied with success, but not supported by the present education “system”.

Education that is culturally-valued is first and foremost based on respectful relationships. A respectful relationship mutually values the whole person, and recognizes and acts to resolve issues that are keeping someone from being whole, in ways that allow the learner to internalize those ways of retaining and nurturing wholeness.

Culturally-valued education preserves, promotes and celebrates the inherent dignity of all cultures, which means removing the lens of colonialism and bringing the true, entire story into focus. In culturally-valued education, it is recognized that all people, Indigenous or not, are colonialized. Relationships cannot be genuine unless they’re founded in the truth and guided forward from there.

The truth in Saskatchewan is that it was founded in colonialism. The people who were here before European contact were systematically pushed off their lands to make way for the incoming, starved, discriminated against, and forced to release their children into residential schools. The goal was assimilation, to cut off the normal ability of families to pass on generations of wisdom and skills. The result was genocide, and subsequent generations of dysfunction, grief and misery. Culturally valued education recognizes that grief and trauma erode the ability to learn, therefore prioritizes healing over all. This approach naturally accommodates the adult learner, and doesn’t place a limit on age. Culturally-valued education has processes built in place to give voice to local community and be directed by that.

In the last decade, local school boards were replaced by “community school councils” which, although democratically elected, have virtually no say in things such as budget and hiring, disciplining and firing. Policy needs to change back to empowering the community in the education of its youth. Culturally-valued education is not subsidized by industry that has a vested interest in recruiting students into its production. Northern Lights School Division spans the entire northern half of the province. Cameco and Areva are regularly allowed into NLSD gymnasiums to promote uranium mining, and into classrooms to administer aptitude tests measuring students’ suitability for work in the mines. Students are told, sometimes even by teachers and school administrators, that their purpose in graduating is to “get a good job in the mine”. Elders in the school are warned not to discuss nuclear waste with the youth. Career Fairs are paid for and almost entirely represented by uranium corporations. Our education in the north has truly become corporatized. Our youth deserve better. We are in great need of a diversified economy and “Green Career Fairs” to reflect that. The entire provincial middle years and high school science and math curriculums have been revised to take on an industry focus. Culturally-valued education would consistently foster critical thinking, instead of applying tunnel vision.

The current provincial government has drastically cut school budgets, resulting in a loss of staff and support services for the most vulnerable. Policy must be immediately revised to not only restore but monumentally increase the ability of our schools to operate independently from industry, and serve the needs of our youth to first heal.

Local Food Sovereignty

One of the most serious barriers to health, wellbeing and learning in a region that has been long recognized as having high poverty rates, is the cost of food due to the high cost of transportation. People of the region have always been dependent on the availability of local wild foods from the land, lakes and rivers. The advent of more roads and development, and the effects of climate disasters, has hurt the health and numbers of fish and game. More and more people have had to depend on stores. It is ludicrous that we are burning fossil fuels to transport imported food when we could be developing local food sovereignty. More training in growing food and maintaining greenhouses would go a long way to eliminating both carbon emissions and would benefit the entire population. It could also provide a source of healthy, local and sustainable employment that people could take pride in.

Climate instability is going to wreak havoc on imported and domestic food crops. It is time to be realistic about creating food sovereignty in every community. It is a sad truth that people are literally only weeks away from starvation when food security is achievable.

Economic Diversity

Northern Saskatchewan has been promised “economic prosperity” for decades. It has been the key phrase used by every government wanting access to resources on and under our lands. The problem is that commodification of resources has led to over-dependence on one type of employment in resource-based, market – in other words, a boom-and-bust economy. Boom and bust is neither a reliable, nor healthy, economy. Northerners have expressed discontent to no avail. Career fairs at schools across the north continue to be funded and almost entirely represented by uranium corporations. There has been openly blatant support of the single-resource uranium economy by the Saskatchewan government. To quote Brad Wall, “The best program for First Nations and Metis in Saskatchewan is not a program at all – it’s 11 Cameco!”, and, “Cameco is Saskatchewan’s number one corporate citizen.”

Despite huge tax breaks for corporations and pitifully low royalties, government policy continues to hold us hostage to putting all our eggs in one basket, instead of promoting true prosperity within northern communities. Most people must travel hundreds of kilometers to shop for essentials or access health services that are taken for granted in the south.

A community needs and resource assessment would shed light on ways that a locally sustainable, diversified economy would better offer employment in a wider range of fields and careers, and make better use of resources. Families would not be subjected to absentee parents who are required to be away from home, and would be less stressed. Money would circulate within the local area, rather than always leaving the community.

Restore Environment to Uncontaminated State

Northern Saskatchewan was once a beautiful, pristine, green forest, with clear lakes, rivers and streams so fresh we never had any concern about taking a drink of the life-giving water. Wildlife was abundant; fish, moose, caribou, ducks and berries provided healthy sustenance. Medicines from the plants prevented and cured illness and injuries.

Over the last 60 years, uranium mining in the Athabasca Basin and nickel mining in the northeast have left permanent scars and serious chemical, heavy metal and radioactive contamination impacting the land, air, water, plants, animals and people. Even with today’s so-called “best practices” and “technological advances”, industries have to admit they fall short in ensuring that mine sites, watersheds and surrounding land will be left clear of contamination. In the case of uranium mines, there are already several permanent sacrifice zones that have been harming the health of animals, plants and people. It is also known to have intergenerational effects, reducing the ability to thrive.

It is imperative that the Saskatchewan government and its industry partners take on the responsibility for restoring all impacted areas to an un-contaminated state that will continue to be safe for all generations to come. It is their responsibility, since they did not heed the warnings given by the Dene Elders to “leave the black rock alone”. If this cannot be accomplished, then no further uranium mines and other mineral and gas development should be permitted.

Mark Bigland-Pritchard’s Green Energy Vision

 

Green Energy and the SaskForward Vision

By Mark Bigland-Pritchard

The author is a Saskatoon-based independent energy consultant, with a background in applied physics and engineering. He is principal researcher for Green Energy Project Saskatchewan, and a core member of Climate Justice Saskatoon. Political views expressed here are his own.

It doesn’t have to be this way

In July, a pipeline broke, and diluted heavy oil leaked into the North Saskatchewan River, threatening the water supply of North Battleford, Prince Albert, James Smith First Nation and others, poisoning traditional First Nations medicine-collecting sites, and creating longterm ecological damage from the toxic constituents of sinking oil deposits. In the aftermath, we discovered that the pipeline in question had not needed to undergo an environmental assessment, that, on average, there have been over 18,000 reported leaks in the province since 1990, and that we have 27 inspectors to check on over 100 thousand kilometres of pipeline. And it’s set some of us wondering how Saskatoon would fare if the newly Trudeau-approved Line 3 (or, for that matter the old pipeline which it replaces) were to rupture close to where it crosses the South Saskatchewan river at the north end of Lake Diefenbaker.

Meanwhile, in the Athabasca basin in the north of the province, traditional Dene and Metis hunting and trapping lands are being segmented and disrupted by an unprecedented level of mineral exploration – mostly for uranium.

At Thunderchild First Nation in 2013, exploration for frackable gas included the desecration of the band’s sundance grounds. For resisting this offence, Marilyn Wapass ended up in prison.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But why is it?

What these events have in common is clear: the overbearing influence of extractive industry in our province, such that it can avoid accountability, threaten health and lives, and ride roughshod over the Treaty rights and the traditional practices and livelihoods of the First People of this territory.

But there is a still larger threat posed by this dominance. Per capita, Saskatchewan emits more greenhouse gases than any other Canadian province or territory (67 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent per person per year), more than 48 out of 50 US states, and more than any nation state worldwide. In Paris just over a year ago, Canada committed to a document which set targeted limits to the extent of average global warming – no more than 2°C, with an ambition to keep it below 1.5°C. There is a global carbon budget attached to each of these limits, which we must not exceed if we are to stay within them.

Let’s pretend for a while that we lived in a fair world where every person was entitled to an equal share of carbon emissions. Saskatchewan’s share for a 2/3 chance of staying below 2°C warming would be about two-and-a-half times our current annual emissions – i.e. we would use up our for-all-time allowance in about two-and-a-half years. It’s even worse for the budget for a 50% chance of staying under 1.5°C warming – we would blow through that in just 14 months. After that, we are in effect stealing from other peoples’ budgets or else driving global temperatures past manageable limits.

And even a 2°C world is a disturbing prospect. According to a recent detailed study,

“The risks posed by extreme heat and potential crop yield reductions in tropical regions in Africa and South-East Asia under a 2° warming are particularly critical given the projected trends in population growth and urbanization in these regions.”

“In conjunction with other development challenges, the impacts of climate change represent a fundamental challenge for regional food security, and may trigger new poverty traps for several countries or populations within countries.”

Together with the predicted increase in drought in the middle east and north Africa, and the impact of rising oceans and storm surges on small island states and low-lying river delta areas, these trends threaten to lead to streams of refugees and more failed states.

Our economic overdependence on resource extraction isn’t just threatening the water and the lands that we should be caring for. It isn’t just threatening our own health. It isn’t just the latest phase of colonialism. It also contributes to a massive, indeed potentially unprecedented, threat to human society globally.

I don’t believe that represents who Saskatchewan people are, deep down. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

But it will be for as long as the corporations rule. For as long as they are allowed to dominate instead of just doing their job of supplying a service in return for fair recompense. For as long as profit is more important than people. For as long as narrow corporate-friendly economic dogma dominates government priorities. For as long as economic “growth” matters more than communities or human health or the earth itself.

My vision

But if we want things to be different we need a vision. Only with an inspiring and life-giving vision can we overcome the anxiety and denial which is gripping this province. More accurately, we need lots of peoples’ visions that we can piece together into one big vision.

As an energy consultant, applied physicist and policy researcher, here’s my piece of the jigsaw. This started as a vision for energy provision – but it rapidly became also a vision for good jobs, for an economy under our control, for a better concept of prosperity, and for a more harmonious way of living together:

I see a Saskatchewan in which energy is a servant not a master – where our energy systems are designed for us, instead of the current situation where we have to fit in with the edicts of private corporations and insufficiently accountable Crowns. I see people mostly working close to home, living in comfortable homes which cost next-to-nothing to heat, taking the opportunity to play an active part in managing their energy supply, and using a diverse range of efficient transport options. I see liveable cities, where for most of the things which we need to do we can travel by foot or by bike or by comfortable and efficient public transit.

I see a Saskatchewan where the power of big corporations is reduced because local small business offers many more employment options. I see the housing crisis addressed with state-of-the-art homes. And I see a culture which encourages innovation for the public good.

So how can we work this out? Here are my suggestions.

Electricity

Let’s start with electricity. Northern European jurisdictions would look with envy at our wind resource, our solar resource, our potential to plan biomass operations which threaten neither food production nor ecosystems.

But it is some of those European countries – especially Denmark and Germany – which have shown us how to make the transition in a way that can benefit everyone. Government in both countries has enabled community ownership of green electricity generation. Often this is through establishment of a local cooperative; more recently Germany has seen the emergence of municipally owned utilities committed to 100% renewables generation. And even when wind and solar were expensive, a system was in place to give those new power generators a virtually- guaranteed financial return. Much has been written in North American media about the supposedly horrendous cost of electricity in Germany – but the reality is that this is not a cause for protest in Germany, and many are enthusiastic about their ability to sell power as well as buying it. (In any case, German householders pay no more for their electricity than we do, even though the retail unit cost is higher – a result of a whole-society endorsement of principles of conservation and efficiency.)

Community ownership means that power becomes democratized – no longer the subject of decision-making by a distant unaccountable body, whether privately or publicly owned. It means that people gain control over another piece of their life. It brings communities together to work on a local project for the common good. It also means good local jobs.

A 2012 study by Blue-Green Canada found that, for the same amount of investment, green energy could create between six and nine times as many jobs as the oil industry. A more recent study from the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts arrives at a more modest figure: two-and-a-half times as many. Already, solar power employs more people in the USA than coal, oil and gas put together. The potential for job creation is phenomenal – provided that we can move fast enough. While most of those jobs will be in installation, consultancy or maintenance, we should be developing manufacturing capacity. South Dakota can attract wind turbine manufacturers, so why not Saskatchewan?

In the period from January 2015 to March 2016, Saskatchewan generated 46% of its power from coal, and another 34% from gas. Over the next two to three decades, both of these fuels need to be phased out – first the coal and then the gas – if we are at all serious about climate change. Looking at the current example of Scotland, and based on my own preliminary modelling, I believe we can achieve that by 2040 – but it will require a determined and consistent programme. The essential technical elements in that programme are deep efficiency measures, rapid renewable power rollout, stronger interconnection with Manitoba, smart-grid development and, towards the end of that period, storage capacity development.

To enable that, we need a series of policy changes:

  •   A commitment that all new generating capacity ordered by SaskPower will be from renewables.
  •   Financial mechanisms to decouple SaskPower profits from the number of units of electricity sold – thus strengthening the incentive for demand-side management (SaskPower or government efficiency initiatives).
  •   Amendment to the Saskatchewan Power Corporation Act, specifying that, in ensuring that power supply adequately meets power demand, new investment should be limited to the following in reducing order of priority: (i) energy efficiency, (ii) community-owned renewables and individual home photovoltaics, (iii) other renewables, (iv) energy from waste and industrial cogeneration. This should be supplemented with investment in whatever mix of other technological approaches (smart grid, power trading, storage) is necessary to ensure and improve grid stability.
  •   Amendment to the Saskatchewan Power Corporation Act, limiting the SaskPower monopoly by enabling local cooperatively- and municipally-owned generation for public sale. In addition, First Nations reserves, which come under federal rather than provincial law and so should already be able to generate and sell within reserve, should also be permitted to sell off-reserve within Saskatchewan.
  •   A feed-in tariff scheme, guaranteeing renewables generators (i) priority on the grid, and (ii) stability of price (with a reasonable but not excessive rate of return), with preferential options for First Nations, community-run schemes, cooperatives and municipal projects.
  •   Agreement with Manitoba Hydro to expand the interprovincial interconnection to 2MW in both directions, so that we can export when wind and solar facilities provide an excess and import hydro power when we have a shortfall from our own generation.
  •   A decisive shift in the structure of the economy, with active encouragement not only for green energy but also for IT, for high-efficiency manufacturing, for essential services. This should include green power manufacturing facilities in the province. And,at the same time, an end to the expansion of extractive industries, an end to new fossil infrastructure, and a planned quarter-century-long phase-out of fossil fuel production.The last point is perhaps the most important. The rapid growth in demand from energy-intensive mining operations has demanded substantial investment in infrastructure – new power stations and new transmission lines. Because it costs more to generate from a new power station – of whatever sort – than from an old one, this has contributed to the rise in electricity rates. Shifting to renewables will also result in a small short-term price rise – not because renewables are inherently more expensive (they no longer are), but because some fossil plant will be “stranded assets,” closed before the end of its financial life. It is important that we minimize the costs to the consumer of the transition, and this can only realistically be done if new infrastructure costs can be limited.Heating buildings

    Energy to heat homes and offices is responsible for only about 3% of our provincial emissions. But this is still an important area to address, for four reasons (besides the climate imperative):

  1. (i)  People on low income need affordable homes. This doesn’t just mean that the rent should be affordable: with electricity prices already rising, and gas prices subject to a volatile market, fuel poverty is a very real future risk if we don’t build to tough energy standards.
  2. (ii)  It enables people to see, in their own lives, what is possible at reasonable cost.
  3. (iii)  The opportunities for job creation in this sector are massive.
  4. (iv)  High-performance buildings don’t just emit less and cost less to run – they are also more comfortable to live in and more pleasant to work in (and corporate Canada is increasingly recognizing that good working conditions lead to higher productivity)

Modern high-performance building need not be expensive – especially if we consider lifetime rather than initial costs.

It’s easiest to act on new-build. It’s a lot cheaper to build in efficiency from the outset. Nearly all wealthy industrialized jurisdictions in the world have energy building codes for new-build. Saskatchewan needs to join them.

Performance-based codes make the most sense – what matters is how much energy a building will use, and how much carbon dioxide it will emit, not whether it is built to some prescribed method. We could start with a requirement for all new buildings to satisfy LEED for Homes or (for office buildings) LEED gold, and gradually ramp up the demands over a decade so that anything being built in the late 2020s meets Passivhaus standard (requiring about 1/10 of the energy of current good-practice construction), provides heating and electricity from renewables, and conforms to the non-energy sections of the LEED standard.

While it could take a decade to fully make the transition in new-build design, the knowledge and methods exist already to build to these high standards. One Passivhaus-compliant project is close to completion in Saskatoon, with others not far behind. With real government support, affordable housing units constructed to this standard could rapidly become the norm, for example in municipal Housing First initiatives.

Existing buildings offer more of a challenge. The incentive programmes offered by previous governments resulted in some improvements, but they were limited in scope and difficult for those on the lowest incomes to take advantage of. A better option – and one which could avoid the need for government funding – would be for longterm financing to be enabled, such that energy savings pay for the monthly payment on the investment. Such a scheme needs to be tied to the property, not the owner, because ownership can change. Toronto is already experimenting with this option, using Local Improvement Charges, following some enabling changes to provincial legislation. Could we do the same here? Or could we achieve the same result through a network of non-profits, or through SaskEnergy?

Such legislation would demand the availability of a skilled workforce. Indeed, tightening codes and retrofit incentives (see reference to carbon pricing below) should offer a degree of employment stability in a traditionally volatile industry. So, as with green power, there will be a need for specialized training for all trades – carpenters, plumbers, electricians and so on. Contractors, architects and engineers will also need new training. But none of this is difficult, and some of it is already being done on a volunteer basis, through mid-career courses and through work experience on energy-efficient new-builds and retrofits.

Transport

Transport policy is complex. We travel to local shops, to workplaces, to schools, to appointments, to city centre events, to other communities – and the most pleasant and quickest way to travel may vary according to distance, location and time of day. A good planning strategy will consider this. It will also consider the impact of our travel on others around us. It will ensure that most of us have mainly short distances to travel – and that we can do so safely on foot or by bicycle for much of the time. It will gear public transit to peoples’ needs, making it comfortable, efficient and rapid and giving it road priority over personal vehicles. It will challenge the dominance of the big box stores and the malls.

We also need a shift in the types of vehicles we drive – in the short term towards more efficient models, and in the short to medium term increasingly to electric vehicles. This transformation can be driven by a mixture of positive incentives, federal regulations, SGI differential insurance rates and carbon pricing. It will also require a comprehensive network of electric charging stations.

Industry

I’ve said a lot about industry already. While I see the biggest opportunities in diversification, most of the present facilities and infrastructure will stay in place at least for the next couple of decades. Their contribution to our carbon footprint is very substantial – roughly half of the total if their electric demand, transport requirement and fugitive emissions are included. So in addressing climate change we cannot avoid making strong demands on these corporations. A mixture of carbon pricing and low-interest loans should enable substantial energy efficiency improvements, and a mine or factory which decides to shift to renewable power should be rewarded. As with buildings and electricity, investment in energy efficiency provides an opportunity for job creation and for skills development.

Fugitive emissions

Nearly one-fifth of Saskatchewan’s current greenhouse emissions are from venting, flaring and leaks in the oil and gas industry. Other jurisdictions (Norway, Alberta, even North Dakota) have found ways to limit this. Instead of venting and flaring methane, producers should be required to either use it to generate power for their rig or else pipe it into the provincial gas system. And pipelines wouldn’t leak so much if they were subject to environmental assessment at the planning stage and regular inspection once installed.

Carbon pricing

I have identified a number of measures which can overcome barriers and enable the transition. But there is another that we cannot easily avoid if we are to move fast enough. That is carbon pricing. This must be transparent, publicly accountable and socially just in its financial impacts, which limits us to a couple of carbon tax models, both of which preferably involve charging a fee at each point where fossil fuels enter the economy. Then either return all the proceeds in equal cheques to every citizen and permanent resident aged 16 or over (Fee and Dividend), or else return about half the proceeds in that way, but only to people on lower incomes, and use the other half to fund green infrastructure, business start-ups, etc. In Saskatchewan, some provision needs to be made to protect export-focussed agriculture, but in my estimation that is the only necessary complication.

Kicking the economic addiction

And, finally, we have to recognize that it is necessary to plan for a transition away from economic dependency on oil and gas production. The message from climate science is clear. To exceed the aspirational lower Paris temperature limit or 1.5°C means death or dislocation for millions worldwide; to exceed the higher limit of 2°C means a slow-motion global train wreck. But to stay below even that higher limit requires an end to fossil fuel use, worldwide, by some time around mid-century. (The precise timing depends on a number of things, one of the most important of which is how quickly we in the industrialised world can cut our emissions in the short term.)

Usually when an industry needs to come to an end the workers are left high and dry. That must not happen this time – we have time to plan and to build the industries which can provide good well- paid jobs in green energy and green construction. The initiatives in this direction which have been taken by former Alberta oilpatch workers in establishing Iron and Earth, securing diverse funding and support, and creating multiple retraining and demonstration projects, are impressive. But they are only the beginning, they need to spread across the provincial border to Saskatchewan, and they need active encouragement. Most importantly, both government and civil society need to take up the cause and build the green economy from the ground up. And those workers need time to retrain, and proper recompense through EI while they do so.

Freedom!

If that happens, we can start to build a society based on local autonomy, not the dictates of corporate headquarters. A society where work and community are linked together. A society which practices community cohesion instead of relying on distant commuting. A society where human values matter – health, happiness, community, connectedness with the natural world, and not just profits and “growth.” And a society which is doing its part to avoid climate catastrophe.

A Publishers’ Weekly review of Faultlines, by our own Emily Eaton and Valerie Zink, says this: “Zink and Eaton portray a precarious population with little control over an existence driven by unseen and unaccountable global forces.” It is time we worked to wrest control away from those unaccountable forces and put it back into the hands of the people. We have the technology to do so. We can find the financial resources – not least by making those unaccountable forces pay their fair share. What is needed is the political will.

Jim Harding for Qu’Appelle Valley Environmental Society on the Yancoal Southey Project

 

YANCOAL SOUTHEY PROJECT: A HUGE STEP AWAY FROM SUSTAINABILITY

1. UNDERMINING PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT:

Yancoal’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was only released on April 23, 2016, yet Yancoal tells us in its April 17th letter that “the public comments deadline will be May 24th”. Meanwhile it took the Saskatchewan Environmental Assessment Review Board two years to do its technical assessment.

The freeze on the process until after the April 4, 2016 provincial election contributed to the suppressing of these vital issues from public scrutiny. The extension of 15 days to June 6th remains a slap in the face of Saskatchewan’s democracy, especially for area farmers during high seeding time.

We know that “politics” and “economics” enter environmental assessment, mostly through narrow terms of reference and errors of omission. The big picture and the future typically don’t get sufficient attention. It is unacceptable for the broader public to only be given 45 days to consider the wider and long-term public interest.

QVEA POSITION # 1: Yancoal’s Southey Project should immediately be taken off the fast-track to allow public due diligence to prevail.

2. PROVINCE-WIDE REPERCUSSIONS FOR ENVIRONMENT AND WATER:

CARBON FOOTPRINT: The Yancoal mine could create as much as 1.09 million tonnes of C02 equivalents per year.[i] This would increase, not decrease Saskatchewan’s already high carbon footprint.[ii] Yet Yancoal has not looked at the potential of using any renewable energy and it even rejected co-generation (power from waste heat). This business-as-usual approach will not help Saskatchewan reorient its economy towards sustainability. The Yancoal project will not help Saskatchewan assist the country to cut its emissions by 30% below the 2005 level by 2030.

EXTERNALIZING COSTS: Yancoal wants to use gargantuan amounts of surface water to bring the potash above ground for processing; this solution mining will reduce Yancoal’s costs while externalizing huge costs to the environment and watershed.[iii] Yancoal admits that the benefits of solution mining include “lower up-front capital costs and no underground workforce.” This shows how, while costs are being externalized, benefits such as jobs are being greatly reduced.

Yancoal expressed an interest in a pipeline to Quill Lakes, perhaps to be supplemented by water from Last Mountain Lake. The Water Security Agency (WSA) and Sask Water prefer a costly pipeline from Buffalo Pound, possibly because they can better control the supply coming from Lake Diefenbaker.

Either way this is a totally unacceptable use and waste of fresh water. Yancoal’s figures suggest it will use 13 million cubic metres a year, 50% of the water used by Regina[iv]; it could be larger. Year in and year out for up to 100 years all this water would be permanently lost from the natural cycle. We must start to truly value and protect water; with the coming water crisis we can’t be removing fresh water from the hydrological cycle.

CLIMATE CHANGE: Furthermore, Buffalo Pound and Last Mountain Lake are both fed by Lake Diefenbaker, which provides domestic water to more than half of Saskatchewan’s residents. The amount of water in the South Saskatchewan River which, since the mid-60s, flows into Lake Diefenbaker has been markedly decreasing for a century and this decrease will accelerate with climate change. Recent summer flow levels have measured 86% below those recorded in 1910.[v] Both water quantity and quality will be at even greater risk.[vi] When surface water becomes scarcer, as it surely will, Yancoal and other companies could end up using water from and risking contaminating the Hatfield Aquifer on which many communities already depend.

A 2012 report already projected a 200% increase in water taken from the Qu’Appelle watershed by 2060.[vii] And this calculation was made before the Yancoal project or some other solution mines were even proposed.[viii] We see no credible provincial strategy behind the steady, incremental industrialization of water that will ensure that future water sources are protected and secure. [ix] The Water Security Authority (WSA) modeling and forecasting doesn’t even take climate change into account. There hasn’t been a study of the cumulative impact of Yancoal using the massive projected volume of water over 100 years[x]. Would the amount of water being extracted violate inter-provincial water-sharing agreements? There is simply too much uncertainty about future water supply or the impacts on other water users for this project to be approved.

NOT SUSTAINABILITY: Sustainability is about inter-generational justice; not undermining the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The incremental approach of the Sask Party government puts future generations at risk. It would therefore be foolish to approve the prolonged use and waste of such valuable water for the Yancoal mine.

QVEA POSITION # 2: Until a credible sustainable water strategy which takes climate change into account is developed there should be a moratorium on all mega-water industrial projects.

3. SEVERE IMPACTS ON LAND AND HABITAT:

VIABLE AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT: The area to be immediately affected by the Yancoal mine is a viable agricultural district: there are 126 homes and 325 residents within a 5-mile radius of the proposed mine site.[xi] The way Yancoal has been treating land owners is of great concern. Yancoal has resorted to corporate “divide and rule” tactics which pit those who are more removed from immediate impacts and see short-term benefits, against those that face the brunt and lasting effects of this mega-project.

UNDERGROUND IMPACT: This is not the way to approach the risks to the land, habitats and communities. Many vital questions remain. We know from other locations that fracking carries its own risks.[xii] Yancoal estimates that during operations it will be injecting underground about 20,000 cubic metres (m3) of brine a day from its reclamation ponds.[xiii] This amount of water will be permanently lost to the hydrologic system every day for the 100-year life span of the mine. And have the risks from the continual injection of such massive amounts of wastewater from solution mining underneath the Hatfield aquifer been fully considered?[xiv] It is admitted that subsidence or downward displacement of surface material would occur over the next 250 years but what would be the extent of land slumping? Are there other risks of underground movement, including earthquakes, such as have occurred from wastewater injection in the oil and gas industries across the border?[xv]

We prefer the Precautionary Principle. Some may want to argue that the geology is different here and that there has been some solution mine wastewater injection without noticeable underground impacts. The cumulative impacts, with Yancoal’s 100-year timeline and so many other solution mines being considered within this already vulnerable watershed should, however, now be very carefully considered.

ENDANGERED PRAIRIE ECOREGION: Underground contamination can come from pipeline leaks, rock fracturing and brine seepage into aquifers. Further, Yancoal plans to leave the salt tailings exposed. Just because this un-ecological practice has been allowed at potash mines does not mean it should continue. According to Parks Canada the Moist Mixed Grassland Ecoregion in the Prairies Ecozone where Yancoal wants to mine is already one of the most endangered areas in the world. And what are the risks of contamination of fragile fish habitat in the West and East Loon Creeks?

What are the risks of farm lands being greatly devalued? And why is Yancoal being allowed to side-step the foreign ownership guidelines? Yancoal has already purchased 4,200 acres but has an exception that allows them to buy up to 60,000 acres; does it really need this for a potash mine?

YANCOAL’S ENVIRONMENTAL RECORD: The foundational knowledge for all the technical assessments should be fully released and carefully scrutinized. Yancoal’s dismal environmental record abroad[xvi] should also be fully assessed.

QVEA POSITION # 3: At a minimum a panel of fully independent hydrologists should be formed to report on all the pertinent research about deep underground waste water injection before any further consideration is given to approving this project.

4. IMPLICATIONS FOR POTASH INDUSTRY AND PROVINCIAL REVENUE:

CONTROL OF POTASH: Yancoal is a Chinese state corporation which operates on a different time span than other resource companies. Their goal is as much about securing long-term global supply of non-renewables as it is about profitable production and marketing. It has a guaranteed interlocked purchaser, China.

With nearly half of known potash reserves, Saskatchewan is a prime target. And with its own domestic overuse and contamination of watersheds and aquifers, China is also interested in accessing cheap water abroad for its resource extraction. This greatly externalizes its costs onto the Saskatchewan environment.

ROYALTY IMPLICATIONS: Yancoal could be here for 100 years. This is its first such mine, which likely makes us their guinea pigs. And as it plans this huge project, other companies are laying off workers due to the slump in the global potash market. Is anything in place to ensure that Yancoal will not come to control Saskatchewan potash production and undermine the competition and the marketing system (Canpotex) that ensures that the province benefits somewhat from potash royalties? Will Yancoal’s involvement lead to lower prices as well as a shrinking commercial market? If BHP Billiton was kept from purchasing Potash Corp because it was considered a threat to this “strategic resource”, then shouldn’t Yancoal be held to the same standard?

QVEA POSITION # 4: Before this project is allowed to proceed any further there must be full public disclosure of all agreements and obligations made by the Saskatchewan government and those regarding the Chinese-Canada FIPA trade agreement which have any bearing on Saskatchewan’s long-term public interest in resource royalties and revenues.

5. SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES FOR QU’APPELLE VALLEY:

PROTECTING THE QU’APPELLE WATERSHED: The Lower Qu’Appelle is already considered to be facing “high intensity” stress regarding surface water allocation and ground water use. Roads, aquatic fragmentation, impact of landfills, livestock and fertilizer inputs, pesticides and contaminated sites all contribute to such stress in the watershed.[xvii] The diversion of millions of cubic metres of precious water for Yancoal’s mine will inevitably further undercut the aquatic health and recreational vitality of the Lower Qu’Appelle, which flows through the Qu’Appelle Valley. Furthermore, over the very long time span of the Yancoal solution mine, upstream saline and other contamination will almost inevitably make its way through the natural drainage system into the Loon Creek which goes into the already vulnerable Qu’Appelle Valley watershed.[xviii]

Yancoal’s solution mine has direct implications for both water quantity and quality throughout the Qu’Appelle Valley Basin. The environmental review process should therefore not be skewed to exclude those who will ultimately be impacted downstream. Downstream indigenous as well as settler communities have a lot at stake here, yet in both cases the broad public has not been directly involved in the review process. This is unacceptable.

QVEA POSITION # 5: Before this project goes any further there must be a full, informed public discussion of the implications of the Yancoal project for the quantity and quality of water passing through the Q

[i] Yancoal Southey Project, Saskatchewan Environmental Society, June 2, 2016.

[ii] In 2011 Saskatchewan surpassed Alberta as having Canada’s highest per capita carbon footprint. The Canadian average was 20 metric tonnes per person per year, while Saskatchewan was 68 metric tonnes per person per year. This is among the highest level anywhere in the world.

[iii] Other Potash companies also admit this transfer of costs: e.g. Encanto Potash Corp writes that at Muskowekwan First Nations it plans “a solution mine for a number of reasons including longer mine life, lower CAPEX (capital expenditure), higher rate of return and shorter time of production…” See encantopotask.com/muskowekwan project.

[iv] On its website Yancoal says it will use 1,450 cubic metres (m3) an hour, which would amount to 13 million cubic metres (Mm3) a year. Regina’s water consumption was 23 Mm3 in 2013.

[v] Glaciers feeding the headwaters of the two Saskatchewan Rivers have shrunk by 25-30% since the 1950s. The maximum depth of snow and number of days with snow on the ground have both declined significantly. See W.F. Donahue, Freshwater Issues and Challenges in Alberta, Canadian Forest Service, Science Seminar Series, March 13, 2008.

[vi] See “Climate Change and our Watershed”, In We Are All Waterkeepers, Fort Qu’Appelle Kairos, Sept. 2014, pp. 20-23.

[vii] One proposal is to build an Upland Canal from Lake Diefenbaker to Buffalo Pound Lake to try to increase the flow to handle a projected 219% increase in demand for agriculture and a 172% increase in demand for industry and mining by 2060. See Clifton Associates, Upper Qu’Appelle Water Supply Project, 2012. Also see “Upland Canal Project”, Kairos 2014, pp. 14-16.

[viii] The Mosaic solution mine at Belle Plain already draws water from Buffalo Pound. The K & S Legacy solution mine near Bethune which the company admits will be “water-and-energy intensive” has now been told that it will also be provided water from Buffalo Pound. Vale was promoting a solution mine at Kronau which initially was to draw water directly from Katepwa Lake; it is now on hold. Western Potash is proposing a solution mine at Milestone, Karnalyte Resources is proposing another, the Carnallite project, at Wynyard and Encanto is proposing a solution mine on Muskowekwan First Nations. How many such water-gorging solution mines can the Qu’Appelle Watershed bear? Potash Corp also has a solution mine at Patience Lake near Saskatoon.

[ix]With climate change come earlier springs and algae buildup in the 5.5 metre deep Buffalo Pound Lake. Regina’s supply has already been restricted by 50% in May of 2015 due to this convergence. And the ability to increase the flow into Buffalo Pound from Lake Diefenbaker is highly limited, especially in winter months, without a very expensive canal mega-project, to which the WSA and Sask Party government has not committed. And even then there would, over time, be a reduced flow from Alberta.

[x] One billion, 300 million cubic metres of valuable surface water would be taken out of the natural system. This is not sustainable.

[xi] Havelock Special Projects Committee.

[xii] See Bob Weber, “Fracking, Not Water Disposal, Caused Canadian Earthquakes”, Canadian Press, March 29, 2016. David Eaton at the University of Calgary studied 12,000 fracked and disposal wells drilled in Western Canada by the oil and gas industry between 1985-2015 and found that earthquakes were twice as likely to be associated with fracking as with wastewater disposal.

[xiii] If Yancoal uses 34,800 cubic metres of water a day (1,450 m3 an hour), this figure of 20,000 m3/day suggests there will be some recycling of water before it is disposed.

[xiv] “The amount of pressure on the injected water should be disclosed and the risk of earthquake generation should be investigated.” Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) submission, June 2, 2016.

[xv] “Earthquakes and Hydraulic Fracking”, Earthwork Fact Sheet, n.d., states that earthquakes have been “linked to fracking wastewater injection in at least five states.” Also see “Earthquakes triggered by fracking wastewater in Oklahoma”, Associated Press, July 3, 2014. This reports that the salty “wastewater is leftover from unconventional wells that drill for oil and gas with the help of high pressure fracking and from the removal of water from diluted oil. These new methods mean much more wastewater has to be discarded.”

Also see Terry Reith and Briar Stewart, “Do fracking activities cause earthquakes? Seismologists and the state of Oklahoma say yes”, CBC News, April 28, 2016. This reports that a number of earthquakes in Oklahoma have been “blamed on the injection of wastewater from oil production into wells”.

The 700 people from 20 countries who attended the Seismology Society of American meeting in Reno Nevada heard about studies showing that there definitely is a relationship between “deep disposal and earthquake activity” that has been increasing since 2011.

Could a similar thing occur from potash solution mining when the massive amount of toxic brine wastewater is injected into deep wells?

[xvi] Yancoal is a subsidiary of Yanzhou Coal and Yankuang Group, one of China’s largest fossil fuel conglomerates. Yancoal controls 10 coal mines in Australia and plays a big role in China’s huge C02 emissions. Coal mining and coal-generated electricity also contribute to widespread toxic contamination of both land and water in China. See Jim Harding, Are We ready to Sell Our Future to China? R-Town News, May, 31, 2014 and also available at: www.crowsnestecology.wordpress.com

[xvii] State of the Watershed Report, Water Security Authority, 2010, p. 32-36.

[xviii] The first lake, Pasqua Lake is already suffering from a massive nutrient load which comes in part from decades of Regina’s untreated sewage.

Dr. Darlene Juschka on transformational change in SK

There are several changes I might propose in order to improve the quality of life for Saskatchewan folks:

We need to move to green energy and green economy to ensure the health of the population in light of the high rates of cancer in the province; We need to deal with the racism and colonialism in the province and develop – in light of Truth and Reconciliation – respectful relations with Indigenous peoples; And finally, we need to bring together northern and southern SK and provide the same kind of services and opportunities available in the south to folks in the north.

Dr. Andrew Stevens on urban renewal and infrastructure

It’s tough to figure out where we should start. First off, real “transformational change” would include an ambitious homelessness strategy that makes massive financial commitments for Housing First initiatives that are already off the ground in Regina and Saskatoon. Included in this funding arrangement would be resources adequate to provide wrap around services in addition to investments in social and affordable housing.

Second, our province needs a rigorous urban infrastructure renewal strategy, one that looks at modernizing “conventional” civic infrastructure like sewer and water systems, along with roads. To this list I would add investments in public transit operational and capital expenditures. The province desperately needs to boost investments in green infrastructure, which includes retrofitting provincial and municipal buildings through a dedicated capital fund on top of a growing municipal operating grant. To this end SaskEnergy and SaskPower should be tasked with leading this programme on a wider scale across the province, with money being spent on wind, solar, and thermal power systems. Our universities in Saskatoon and Regina, along with the Sask Polytechnics, should be enriched with funds to launch renewable energy centres of excellence. Here, we could attract skilled trades, engineers, social scientists, and policy experts to make our province a leader in green energy policy, infrastructure, design, and construction.

Third, Saskatchewan needs to boost the amount of educational and settlement supports services for newcomers, which includes foreign workers, refugees, and permanent residents. This involves investing more money in ESL programmes in the community and in our province’s public education system. Documents related to accessing public services, employment standards, labour relations, housing, health care, and occupational safety should be translated into various languages.