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Environment

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

Homes by 3Leafs showcases the first single family, shipping container home built in Calgary.

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Homes by 3Leafs showcases the first single family, shipping container home built in Calgary. The Alberta based company is changing how homes are constructed by transforming recycled steel containers into high performance, energy efficient homes with net zero capabilities.

September 19, 2019, Calgary, AB ​Homes by 3Leafs gave media an exclusive inside look into the sleek, elegant modern two-storey home made from four recycled shipping containers. The home is nestled in the eco-friendly community, Echohaven, in northwest Calgary.

Som Sourachit, C.E.O. of Homes by 3Leafs describes this moment as pivotal. “Our high performance, energy efficient houses reduce waste in landfills by repurposing steel shipping containers into dream homes. The houses have net zero capabilities and are the new blueprint for how we should build while protecting our environment. “

It’s estimated there are millions of shipping containers piling up in landfills worldwide. The repurposed containers make the perfect envelope for a home, and reduce the heavy reliance on trees used for construction. The steel means shipping container homes are sturdier and will last for generations with fewer repairs than traditional stick builds over time.

The homeowner, Jaime Turner, added “This is a teaching moment for my young daughter. We wanted to build a legacy for her. This is our forever home and we know because it’s made of steel it will last for generations, and an added bonus is, we are being good to our environment!”

Homes by 3Leafs is proud to be leading the way in new home construction. Currently, 6 building projects are underway.

About Homes by 3Leafs

Homes by 3Leafs is a global company based in Edmonton and is comprised of a team of architects, construction experts, designers, and engineers with years of experience developing stunning homes. By using shipping containers to build, Homes by 3Leafs is committed to saving the environment. Thousands of containers pile up in landfills unused while forests can’t be cut down fast enough to support the robust construction industry. The company leads the way with cutting edge technology and new innovations to help the world build beautiful sustainable homes to last hundreds of years.

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Environment

Lawsuit says illegal to force gas stations to paste carbon-price stickers

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TORONTO — An Ontario law forcing gas stations to display stickers showing the cost of federal carbon pricing is illegal and should be thrown out, a new lawsuit asserts.

The unproven lawsuit from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association says the Federal Carbon Tax Transparency Act — dubbed the Sticker Act — violates free speech provisions of the Constitution.

“The sticker imposed by the Sticker Act constitutes compelled political speech,” the lawsuit asserts. “Under threat of significant fines, it legislatively requires gas station owners to express the (government’s) position.”

The liberties group says in its filing it was unable to find a gas station owner willing to fight the law despite its “diligent attempts.”

The Progressive Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford brought in the legislation as part of its failed legal battle with Ottawa over carbon pricing ahead of next month’s federal election. The federal scheme imposes a charge in those provinces that don’t have a carbon-pricing system of their own — currently 4.4 cents a litre in Ontario.

Ford has consistently denounced the federal legislation as a “tax grab” and has said it wants consumers to know what the federal charge will cost Ontario drivers.

“We’re going to stick it to the Liberals and remind the people of Ontario how much this job-killing, regressive carbon tax costs,” Energy Minister Greg Rickford, who is named in the suit, told the legislature in April.

The association, however, says the stickers are part of Ontario’s political campaign against Ottawa and there’s no good reason to force anyone to display them.

“The Sticker Act requirements do not relate to any technical standards or any concerns about safety,” the lawsuit states. “Comments Ontario has made about the Sticker Act in the Ontario legislature and to the public demonstrate that the content of the stickers are political in nature.”

Rickford, who said the province was reviewing the lawsuit and planned to respond, defended the act.

“Ontario’s government is standing up for the people by implementing transparency measures that reveal the hidden cost of the federal carbon tax on the price of gasoline,” Rickford said in a statement.

Critics have complained the taxpayer-funded stickers are misleading because they fail, among other things, to reflect a federal rebate the Liberal government says will put more money into consumer pockets than they are paying at the pump for the carbon levy. It also fails to mention other taxes or gasoline costs.

The act forcing gas stations to put up the stickers took effect on Aug. 30. Failure to do so can carry a fine of $5,000 a day for a first offence, rising to $10,000 a day for subsequent offences. The government has said it would initially issue only warnings rather than fines.

Late last month, the Ontario government asked the Supreme Court of Canada to weigh in on its carbon-pricing battle with Ottawa. The province argues that Ontario’s Court of Appeal was wrong to find the carbon price constitutional and within the federal government’s right to impose.

Ford has said voters will have the ultimate say on the issue when they cast ballots federally next month.

Greenpeace Canada welcomed the challenge, saying the stickers are misleading, partisan and unconstitutional.

“A government forcing businesses to mislead the public about climate change is a worrying development,” the organization’s Keith Stewart said.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press


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