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Environment groups warned saying climate is real could be seen as partisan

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OTTAWA — A pre-election chill has descended over some environment charities after Elections Canada warned them that discussing the dangers of climate change during the upcoming federal campaign could be deemed partisan activity.

An Elections Canada official warned groups in a training session earlier this summer that because Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, has expressed doubts about the legitimacy of climate change, any group that promotes it as real or an emergency could be considered partisan, said Tim Gray, executive director of the advocacy group Environmental Defence.

Any partisan activity — including advertising, surveys, or any kind of campaign costing at least $500 — would require a charity to register as a third party for the election, an onerous requirement that could jeopardize a group’s charitable tax status, Gray said.

It is “discouraging” that Environmental Defence and other charities may have to zip their lips about climate change being real during the campaign period “because one party has chosen to deny the existence of this basic fact,” he added.

“Obviously climate change is real,” said Gray. “Almost every credible institution on the planet is telling us to get our act together and do something about it.”

Last fall, the United Nations climate change panel, made up of hundreds of scientists from around the world, said if the world doesn’t act faster to cut global emissions the planet will face irreversible and catastrophic consequences.

Five of the six political parties expected to have any chance of winning a seat in the upcoming campaign agree that climate change is real and caused by humans. Bernier, however, is the one outlier: he believes that if climate change is real, it is a natural cycle of the earth and not an emergency.

“There is no climate change urgency in this country,” Bernier said in a speech in June speech. He also disagrees that carbon dioxide, which experts say is responsible for three-quarters of greenhouse emissions globally, is bad.

“CO2 is not ‘pollution,'” he tweeted. “It’s what comes out of your mouth when you breathe and what nourishes plants.”

Because of that, Elections Canada is warning that any third party that promotes information about carbon dioxide as a pollutant or climate change as an emergency could be considered to be indirectly advocating against Bernier and his party. Activities can be considered partisan by Elections Canada even if they don’t mention a candidate or party by name, the agency’s rules say.

An Elections Canada spokesman confirmed “such a recommendation would be something we would give.”

Gray says the impact is stifling the conversation about climate change at a critical time.

“At this point, unless I can get greater clarification, after the writ is dropped we would stop doing anything online that talks about climate change, which is our entire mandate,” he said. “You feel you’re being drawn into this space where you’re being characterized as being a partisan entity for putting up Facebook ads that say climate change is real, which seems ridiculous to me.”

Environment groups in Canada are still on edge after spending much of the last five years fighting against the Canada Revenue Agency accusations and worry that if Elections Canada accuses them of being partisan, it will attract another round of audits for partisan activity. Gray said the two may have different definitions of partisan, but the fear is still having a chilling effect.

“We need to ensure that we’re not saying things that are going to be considered to be illegal by Elections Canada.”

It doesn’t mean Gray is forbidden from giving interviews about climate change during the campaign, he said. Rather, it would affect any kind of activity the group undertakes that costs more than $500, such as a Facebook ad campaign.

In 2012, the former Conservative government unveiled a $13-million audit program to seek out charities the Conservatives alleged were abusing their tax status with partisan activities. The probes went after two dozen environment, human rights, anti-poverty and religious groups — none of them considered partisan — for going beyond a rule that limited their spending to no more than 10 per cent of their funding on political advocacy work.

The program was launched as the Conservatives called many environment groups “radical” and a “threat” to Canada.

The Liberals promised to end what they called a “witch hunt” against any civil society groups that opposed the government’s policies. It took more than three years, but eventually legislation was changed last year to lift the 10 per cent limitation. The non-partisan rule, however, remains.

Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network Canada, called the Elections Canada warning “shocking.”

“Climate change is a scientific fact,” she said. “It’s not an opinion.”

The situation is “contributing to ongoing confusion” about what environment charities can and cannot do, and will give fuel to pro-oil groups that want to silence their opponents, Abreu added.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Alberta

UPDATE: Mikisew Cree Nation announces their support for the Teck Frontier project

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Teck logo

Update – Premier Kenney on the announcement

Premier Kenney had this to say about the announcement: The Government of Alberta made a promise to ensure our First Nations partners are true partners in prosperity. The Mikisew Cree, and every other First Nation looking to create new opportunities for their people are a part of this effort, and that is why we must highlight their voices. Our Indigenous partners understand that while we utilize the resources we inherit, we also must protect the land, which they have depended on for time immemorial.” – Premier Jason Kenney

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Background:

 from The Mikisew Cree First Nation

February 21, 2020

Wood Buffalo, AB – ​The Mikisew Cree First Nation have announced their support for the approval of the Teck Frontier Project. This decision was made using a community-based decision making framework aimed at ensuring a healthy future for our people and the Peace Athabasca Delta.

The First Nation reached this decision by evaluating the proponent’s environmental and social commitments and the mitigation and accommodation measures being brought to federal and provincial decision-makers against Mikisew’s Nikechinahonan Framework. That framework is aimed at ensuring the project is consistent with the health of Wood Buffalo National Park, the health of traditional resources, and the cultural, physical and social health of the Mikisew community.

Chief Archie Waquan noted that this moment came after a rigorous review of environmental and cultural studies in a 10-year consultation process led by elders and staff. “We applaud Teck, Canada and Alberta for working with us to identify ground-breaking measures to safeguard Wood Buffalo National Park, wood bison and our community. With the long term commitments from Teck, Alberta and Canada, we see a strong path for protecting Wood Buffalo National Park, the Ronald Lake Bison Herd and our culture and community if the project proceeds. That is how we got to today’s decision to confirm our support.”

In making its decision today, Mikisew leadership noted its appreciation for the hard work done by federal officials and the Government of Alberta to take Mikisew’s concerns seriously and contribute meaningful solutions to resolving them. Among other things, this includes actions relating to bison, community well-being, water quality and quantity and the creation of a new protected area. Mikisew urges both governments to commit to uphold and fully endorse the important commitments that have been developed to preserve the environment and culture if the project is approved.

Mikisew also urges both governments to use this process as a blueprint for future resource development decisions. The federal government, through a cabinet decision, stands to make a decision on the project next week.

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Read more on Todayville Edmonton.

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Alberta

Premier Kenney wants to share this video with the nation: A message from BC MLA Ellis Ross

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Ellis Ross is the B.C. Liberal MLA for Skeena and was chief councillor for the Haisla First Nation from 2013 to 2017.

(This was pulled from a facebook post submitted by Premier Jason Kenney)

Former Haisla chief councillor, now BC MLA Ellis Ross nails it in the article below

“Professional protesters and well-funded NGOs have merely seized the opportunity to divide our communities for their own gains, and ultimately will leave us penniless when they suddenly leave.”

Read it here: http://bit.ly/2OR2yAX

 

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