Archive for October, 2010

Quebec judge lambasted by Supreme Court

October 23, 2010

by Jack Locke

Louis LeBel, Supreme Court justice overturns draconian Quebec ruling

How does an appointed judge of Quebec’s Superior Court impose a publication ban on a journalist, without being requested to do so, in clear violation to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? And still sit on the bench?

This is what Superior Court Judge Jean-François de Grandpré did to Globe and Mail journalist Daniel Leblanc and La Presse journalist Joël-Denis Bellavance. This week the Supreme Court of Canada reversed the draconian order.

“….Finally, the ban imposed by (Judge) de Grandpré is, if nothing more, clearly overbroad. It is a blanket prohibition, and no indication was given as to when it would expire,” wrote Supreme Court Justice Louis LeBel.

LeBel went further in criticizing the Quebec judge.

“By proceeding in this manner, in a case where there was no suggestion of urgency or delay inherent in hearing submissions that would prejudice either party, de Grandpré J. violated one of the fundamental rules of the adversarial process: he denied the parties an opportunity to be heard before deciding an issue that affected their rights.”

The dialogue between Judge de Grandpré and Mark Bantey, the Globe and Mail lawyer, was reproduced in the Supreme Court’s decision to show the poor quality of judgemanship(translated by the court):

MARK BANTEY:
Then, Mr. Justice, before that, I’m going to have some submissions to make. That . . .

THE COURT:
No, no. That, I . . .

MARK BANTEY:
. . . you’re issuing — Mr. Justice, pardon me, with respect, you’re issuing a publication ban. Before issuing a publication ban, you have to . . .

THE COURT:
It is not a publication ban.

MARK BANTEY:
Mr. Justice, before issuing a publication ban, you have to give us a chance to make submissions.

THE COURT:
What I don’t want to hear and what I don’t want to read in the newspapers is an article like the one that appeared in The Globe and Mail on October 21.

MARK BANTEY:
Mr. Leblanc has an absolute right to publish what he did, Mr. Justice.

THE COURT:
If he does it, he must do it in accordance with the strict letter of the law. In that regard, you’ll inform me when the Court of Appeal has made its decision.

MARK BANTEY:
So, Mr. Justice, just to make sure I understand, you’ve issued a publication ban?

THE COURT:
Yes.

Why the Quebec Court of Appeal refused to overturn Judge de Grandpre’s ruling is equally troubling and should worry all Quebecers.

Advertisements

Government secrecy threatens Beaufort belugas

October 20, 2010

by Jack Locke

The government of Canada has put a cloak of secrecy around the hunt for hydrocarbons hidden offshore of Canada’s northern Arctic frontier. As international oil giants invest billions to purchase Canadian government leases to explore the Beaufort Sea, the formal applications to the National Energy Board remain secret, inaccessible for public review.

“In accordance with the requirements of the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, generally all information and documents submitted as part of an application under the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act and Canada Petroleum Resources Act are privileged,” says Sarah Kiley, National Energy Board’s Planning, Policy & Coordination Communications Officer.

In 2007, Imperial Oil in partnership with ExxonMobil Canada bought the rights from the federal government to explore with an aim to develop approximately 500,000 acres(200,000 hectares) of the Beaufort Sea. In 2008, Canada’s department of Indian and Northern Affairs granted three companies the right to explore a total of 849,194 square hectares in the Beaufort.

The Prime Minister’s recent announcement of the creation of three marine protected areas comprising a total of 1,800 square kilometres in a region adjacent to significant oil and gas exploration activities seems a tad tiny– tokenistic even–in comparison to the oil and gas activity in the region.

In August the federal government also announced a Beaufort Regional Environmental Assessment Initiative, at the very moment when extensive exploration was being performed.

As the Prime Minister was making his announcements on land, two ships, the M/V Polar Prince and the M/V BOS Atlantic were conducting seismic surveys over a 20,000 square kilometre(2 million sq. hectare) area. Details from the NEB do not provide much more than these few statistics as the secrecy provisions deny full disclosure.

“…information or documentation is privileged if it is provided for the purposes of this Act or the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act… or for the purposes of Part II.1 of the National Energy Board Act, whether or not the information or documentation is required to be provided,” states the Canada Petroleum Resources Act.

For oil and gas companies, the play for Arctic riches is a risky gamble, where the highest bidder buys the right from the government to develop a piece of frozen ocean floor to conduct seismic mapping in order to locate the most probable spot to drill a well.

In 2008, BP Exploration bid $1.181 billion for a 202,380 hectare exploration licence from the department of Indian and Northern Affairs. The department at that time granted three companies the right to explore a total of 849,194 square hectares.

In 2007, Imperial Oil in partnership with Exxon-Mobil bought the rights from the federal government to explore a big chunk of the Beaufort Sea, approximately an area the size of 400,000 football fields.

It would take one event in the Beaufort sea similar to this summer’s BP Deepwater Horizon disaster to rapidly devastate the protected areas, with less possibility of conducting an effective clean-up. In addition, a blow-out could take years to stop due to the difficulty of operating in the Beaufort.

The seismic testing alone has significant negative environmental implications.

Extending behind ships as they criss-cross back and forth in a strategic grid are cables that set off continuous violent blasts of air from airguns.

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the explosive release of air from airguns can create source sound amplitudes of up to 240 decibels. The continuous blasting can last for weeks or months at intervals of every few seconds.

“Seismic testing is very damaging to cetaceans(large aquatic mammals), as it can cause permanent hearing loss, and loss of location ability. You cannot protect belugas in the same area in which you are developing oil and gas,” says Elizabeth May, leader of Canada’s Green Party.

The American government’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory set up an underwater listening device in the mid-Atlantic. They were able to detect seismic mapping airgun blasts off the coast of Nova Scotia that were 3,000 kilometres away from the listening.

The belugas, also known as the Canary whale for their making of twittering-like sounds, might chirp or question the intention of Prime Minister Harper who concluded his marine protection announcement with the following:

“Congratulations to everyone who played a role…in the creation of this marine protected area, you have helped us make an historic investment in our future.”

Believe it or Not!

October 13, 2010

 

Alberta's Goudreau to attend Francophone Summit

 

In a little publicized notice, the Alberta government has announced they will be sending a Minister to the upcoming Francophone Summit in Switzerland.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to promote Alberta’s deep francophone roots to the international francophone community,” says Hector Goudreau, Alberta’s Minister of Municipal Affairs who will attend the October 22 summit.

“Avec plus de 225 000 Albertains d’expression française, nous avons une occasion de promouvoir au monde entier la communauté franco-albertaine, une communauté qui par les arts, la culture, la recherche et les affaires, contribue d’une manière positive à la qualité de vie et la compétitivité générale de notre province,” says Goudreau in an email.

The first Francophonie Summit was held in 1986 in Paris. Today, La Francophonie has 53 member states and participating governments. The last summit was held in Quebec City in 2008.

To read the Alberta government’s complete press release, click here or go to the Government of Alberta site.

Taxing us to debt

October 7, 2010

by Jack Locke

Montreal/Westmount – An issue that has me long upset is the pyramid taxing of the GST by the Quebec Provincial Sales Tax. You know, the Quebec government doesn’t only impose the PST on goods or services, but also levies the tax on the GST. (About an extra $9 million annually.)

I’ve read the 1994 Supreme Court Decision in the reference to that court, and nowhere does it say the province may impose a sales tax upon the GST. I wrote the Premier and the Minister of Revenue in Quebec saying what they were doing is illegal, unwarranted under the law. And I asked for a refund. They brushed me off like a fly.

Premier Charest, here I am, Musca domestica.

I wrote a poem to let off steam, which I include below. But the fact remains, the provincial government is taxing tax. If that’s not corrupt, I don’t know what is.

Je Me Souviens

When the taxers tax on top of tax
I’ll never get a chance ever to relax.
Every penny I pocket, try to save
Will be used to pay for my pauper’s grave.

When sales tax is taxed over and above
I pay a month’s salary just for a glove,
And though I’ve proffered a purse of gold
All my fingers linger, remain ice cold.

You see, a poet’s poem don’t command enough
To pay tax on tax on all his stuff,
I’m forced to grow an annual garden
’cause double tax makes my arteries harden.

When I think of all my hard-working sweat
That goes to pay tax, I cannot forget.
I cannot forget.