Category: Uncategorized

PROFOUND ANSWERS TO A PROFOUND QUESTION: IS THE GLASS HALF EMPTY OR HALF FULL?

For some lighter reading than my normally intense posts, I asked some well-known people for their opinions on this profound question: is the glass half-empty or half-full? As they were all much too busy to answer my question in person I had to make up their answers myself.


 

Donald Trump: There’s no water in that glass. It’s all fake news.

Al Gore: Unless you agree with me that the glass is empty you are a denier.

United Nations Panel on Climate Change: Our scientists say with absolute confidence that climate change will cause the water in the glass to boil by 2100.

Greta Thunberg: Your house is on fire and all you have to put it out with is half a glass of water? How dare you!

Oil Industry Spokesperson: The water looks clean to me.

Greenpeace: Let’s organize street demonstrations and protest strikes until the glass is entirely filled.

WWF: Don’t worry, we will tell Trudeau to make it subject to our new environmental assessment law, for 10 years of hearings.

The Guardian: We will not stay silent on this issue.

David Suzuki: We are going to sponsor a constitutional lawsuit to obtain a judicial determination of the question.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: I drank the rest of the water in the glass, but I only did it to save Canadian jobs.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna: The water in that glass is subject to our new “hydrogen tax” based on the polluter pay principle.

Former Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould: I’ll drink the water, but I refuse to drink the Kool-Aid.

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer: If it votes Tory, what do I care how much water is in it?

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh: If the water in that glass came from a wealthy tap it will have to pay wealth tax.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: If the water isn’t green I’m not drinking it.

Conrad Black: The aqueous liquid in that non-crystalline, transparent amorphous solid occupies precisely half of its volumetric content.

 

Canada’s Carbon Tax: Saving the Planet or Killing our Economy?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada must fight climate change with a rising carbon tax. But several provincial premiers have attacked the federal carbon tax in court as an unconstitutional “tax grab” that will severely harm Canada’s economy. Saskatchewan has lost its case, as has Ontario.

A tax of the planned $50/tonne, with most of the revenue rebated, is unlikely to be either seriously harmful or seriously effective at this rate. But if it continues to increase, and is supplemented by policies that massively subsidize or otherwise compel greatly expanded solar and wind generation, the economy will be harmed. Premature, politically determined investments in the wrong green technologies will leave many Canadian families freezing in the dark.

The evil Dogbert mocks the current green technology:

dt_c110329

DILBERT © Scott Adams. Used By permission of ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION. All rights reserved.

To achieve Canada’s promised 30% emissions reduction by 2030 with current technology would be enormously costly. That cost can only be raised through much higher taxes (whether on income, sales or CO2), without rebates. No country can afford to get it wrong and blow a bundle on something that doesn’t significantly reduce CO2 emissions, then raise taxes even more to try plan B and then plan C, etc.

If our government decides to invest heavily now in the currently available technology, as was done in Germany, it can lead to stratospheric electricity prices and an unreliable electricity supply. In Germany, taxes, levies, and surcharges in 2019 account for nearly 53 percent of a total household power price of 44 cents Canadian per kilowatt hour, among the highest in Europe [cleanenergywire]. In Canada, the price in Montreal is 8.2 cents, and Toronto, 15.11 cents [nrcan]. And Germany has had to build new coal plants to restore the reliability of its electricity grid when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. Any Canadian government that gives us German electricity prices will be destined for electoral  defeat.

Lower and even middle income Canadians would find it increasingly difficult to pay for the very expensive electricity to heat their homes and cook their food electrically (no more gas furnaces or stoves) and keep the lights and appliances on, as well as the very expensive gasoline to drive to work.  During Canada’s National Energy Program (1980-1985), which was much hated in Alberta, there were many Alberta bumper stickers saying “Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark.” If our energy transition is rushed with technology that isn’t yet up to the task, many Canadians all across the country will freeze in the dark.

Continue reading “Canada’s Carbon Tax: Saving the Planet or Killing our Economy?”

THE ‘CLIMATE CRISIS’: DON’T PANIC, IT’S NOT THE TITANIC! Part 1 of 2

During my 45 year legal career I had direct experience in environmental hearings with numerous scientists from various disciplines, both in the preparation and the presentation of their evidence. If they could survive my pre-hearing preparatory “cross-examination” they were likely to do well at the hearing. I wrote and edited a manual for First Nations on how to present their case in an environmental hearing, one of the first such books translated into Cree and Ojibway. I was legal counsel to Canada’s first federal environmental assessment process, assessing two major projects, during which I retained several environmental scientists for the hearing panels and cross-examined others. I also advised Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization in the early stages of its formation.

In the last year I have spent many hundreds of hours reading texts, scientific publications and journalists’ articles about climate change, and I continue to do so daily.

I am not qualified to judge the mathematics used in scientific debates, but I am fully qualified to judge whether there is such a debate. I am also qualified to judge the logic scientists use in justifying their arguments. And finally, I am as well qualified as anyone to judge whether much of what we read in online publications by journalists, or in sponsored posts in social media, purporting to represent “the science” actually does.

It is striking to me how much of what is presented in the popular press is collective misinformation, a journalists’ opinion piece about what that non-scientist writer thinks are some scientists’ opinions about the future, presented as indisputable fact. For example, some journalists’ descriptions of the 2015 Paris Agreement demonstrate that they have never read either the Agreement itself or what various countries have promised to do under that Agreement. They merely repeat the misinformed opinions of others.

Even worse, there is a failure to ask the obvious questions one should ask about shocking and frightening statements: is it too bad to be true? Are my emotions being manipulated? For example, when I read that last summer was the hottest “on record” if I was cross-examining that author I would ask: how far back, in what “record” did you look; and how was the global temperature measured then and now? In some cases the “record” was opened a decade or two after much higher earlier temperatures. By excluding these earlier temperatures from the record recent temperatures were made to appear the hottest in that purposely selected time period.

However, in a selected longer record including many more years or even centuries, the temperatures in the earlier years were not taken from accurate thermometer measurements of that time because no accurate, complete and globally widespread measurements existed. Rather, temperatures from earlier years were estimated, and then compared to observed temperatures in more recent years. By estimating earlier years to have been colder than was likely and making judgmental adjustments to the temperature records of the recent past (e.g., to compensate for possible sampling error), the result may be to increase the slope of the temperature graph to overstate the rate and extent of recent warming.

Even the scientists’ description of the level of confidence they have in these judgments (e.g. “high confidence”), or their probability of being right, is subjective – tantamount to saying “I have high confidence in my own unverifiable opinions.” Yet the “warmest on record” estimates are presented as “fact” in the media even though it is mostly subjective judgment.

But subjective judgments go both ways. In other cases scientists look at the “paleoclimate” in geologic history going back millions of years, perhaps even before homo sapiens, or in the earliest days of humanity (when humanity was small groups of nomads), concluding that if extreme hot or cold temperatures occurred then there can be no problem today (when humanity is 7+ billion people in fixed settlements).

The time period selected and the data adjustments made to historic and recent temperatures largely determines the conclusions. And there is no single “right” time period or “right” adjustments; some just appear more reasonable than others.

I am fully aware that the only totally open mind is a totally empty mind. That is not me or you. So all I can do is try my best to be as objective and impersonal about the evidence as I can. Let me say at the outset that I do not believe in conspiracy theories; or evil scientists fraudulently altering data to create fake science. I assume that everyone is acting with the best of intentions, whether or not I might agree with their methods or conclusions.

I am also unpersuaded by the now common articles that claim to be “debunking” a list of “10 myths” or inconvenient truths presented by someone they disagree with. The myths attacked are usually an oversimplified ‘straw man’ argument, and the debunking often includes personal attacks, as in: she went to a 3rd rate university and didn’t get a PhD in climate science; or: he got his funding from the evil X (whether the oil industry or a foreign billionaire’s charitable foundation). And therefore what they say is just a myth. Working scientists and journalists all have to get their funding from somewhere. I don’t care where.

In today’s polarized times, it is a lot easier to get funded and published in peer reviewed journals when presenting a commonly held viewpoint than a skeptical or even contrarian one. Unfortunately, peer review is no longer the powerful tool it once was if all your peers think the way you do, but reject anyone who doesn’t. For these reasons I don’t look only at the author’s credentials, peer review or alleged sources of funding, but try to judge the presentation on the merits of the evidence and arguments presented.

My interest has been to look behind the headlines to form my own tentative and evolving conclusions. In retirement, I have the time and experience to ask the difficult and sometimes embarrassing questions without needing funding or peer review from anyone. Some of my conclusions will be presented in blog posts here. Keep reading.

Continue reading “THE ‘CLIMATE CRISIS’: DON’T PANIC, IT’S NOT THE TITANIC! Part 1 of 2”

Did Our Prime Minister Violate the Conflict of Interest Act?

Background

Canada’s Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner (EC), Mario Dion, released his bombshell report on August 14 [EC Report]. He found that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had violated section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act by attempting to pressure former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR) to terminate the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin for his own political benefit. Errol Mendes, a well-regarded constitutional law professor, has criticized the EC’s report, arguing that Dion misinterpreted his own act and exceeded his jurisdiction [ Mendes Opinion ]. However, in my view, Dion got it right, and Mendes got it wrong. Here’s why.

If it was ethical for a PM to try to end a criminal prosecution for political benefit to himself and his party it would also be ethical to try to start a prosecution for political benefit. Neither type of political interference is consistent with the rule of law in a democracy.

 

Continue reading “Did Our Prime Minister Violate the Conflict of Interest Act?”

My Presentation to the Senate on Amendments to the Impact Assessment Act, C-69, April 2, 2019

The Canadian Senate’s Committee on Energy, the Environment, and Natural Resources invited me to make a short presentation to it on April 2, 2019, on my proposed amendments to the Impact Assessment Act, C-69.

Below I have set out first, my written opening statement, and second, the transcript of my part of the oral presentation with questions from several Senators.

SENATE OF CANADA

STANDING COMMITTEE ON ENERGY, THE ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES

OPENING STATEMENT OF ANDREW ROMAN

April 2, 2019

INTRODUCTION

Madam Chair and Honourable Senators, thank you for inviting me. And a special thanks to Maxime Fortin for arranging my presentation.

I am here because I want Canada’s impact assessment process to work well, for the sake of my children and grandchildren, and for those of all Canadians. That will not be the case unless C-69 is significantly amended. Good ideas that are badly implemented don’t make good laws. Without major amendments it is unlikely that there will be any new pipeline or electricity transmission proposals under C-69.

I have had a 45 year legal career advising and representing clients across Canada. Clients have included some First Nations (FNs), environmental groups, domestic and international corporations and federal and provincial governments. I have taught and practiced environmental law and advocacy. The federal government retained me to draft the first environmental assessment rules for its impact assessments. I have appeared as legal counsel for both the federal government and NGOs in pipeline hearings and court applications arising from them. I have also worked on drafting different kinds of laws for Ottawa and several provinces.

MY WRITING ON C-69

I recently published two blog posts on C-69, receiving over 4,000 views, here:

Analysis of C-69

How to Amend C-69

The second of these has a table providing a detailed list of suggested amendments. I would encourage you to read these blogs.

WHO WILL BE THE WINNERS AND LOSERS UNDER C-69?

Those who want to keep Canada’s oil and gas in the ground will be the winners. Everyone else will be the losers. Continue reading “My Presentation to the Senate on Amendments to the Impact Assessment Act, C-69, April 2, 2019”

Rumours of Death: The Panic Over SNC-Lavalin

Did the Prime Minister’s Office panic over SNC-Lavalin’s story of impeding doom? Or did they have real numbers showing the future effects of a criminal prosecution?

In the last few weeks the Canadian media have feasted daily on the political controversy over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s treatment of the former Attorney, General Jody Wilson-Raybould. This controversy arose over SNC-Lavalin’s repeated meetings with the Prime Minister’s Office, intended to persuade the PM to persuade the AG to intervene in a criminal prosecution of that company.

The SNC-Lavalin story that the PM, the PMO and the Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick told was that unless the company was protected from criminal prosecution there would be catastrophic consequences, not just for the now-reformed company but also, collateral damage for other, innocent parties: the company’s employees, shareholders and pensioners. I have seen no public numbers to quantify the estimated extent of these damages, merely the assumption that they would be catastrophic and unjust. The PM seemed to have assumed that most, if not all of SNC-Lavalin’s 9,000 Canadian employees are likely to become unemployed. He has responded to his critics by saying that there is nothing wrong with his trying to protect these 9,000 Canadian jobs.  But what if those jobs aren’t at risk, and don’t need his protection?  Did the PM just risk his career and his government over an exaggeration?

Continue reading “Rumours of Death: The Panic Over SNC-Lavalin”

The Prime Minister and the Attorney General.

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble…”  Groucho Marx

Introduction

On February 7, the Globe and Mail reported:

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office attempted to press Jody Wilson-Raybould when she was justice minister to intervene in the corruption and fraud prosecution of Montreal engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., sources say, but she refused to ask federal prosecutors to make a deal with the company that could prevent a costly trial. ….

Sources say Ms. Wilson-Raybould, who was justice minister and attorney-general until she was shuffled to Veterans Affairs early this year, came under heavy pressure to persuade the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to change its mind.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould was unwilling to instruct the director of the public prosecution service, Kathleen Roussel, to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin, according to sources who were granted anonymity to speak directly about what went on behind-the-scenes in the matter.”  [emphasis added]

On Tuesday, February 12, 2019, Ms. Wilson-Raybould resigned from the Cabinet. And on February 13, the Globe and Mail reported:

“Mr. Trudeau repeated his assertion from Tuesday on Ms. Wilson-Raybould, saying that if she had a problem with how the government handled the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, she had a duty to speak up about it earlier.” [emphasis added]

 

The conversations mentioned in these news stories have become a serious problem for everyone: Mr. Trudeau, Ms. Wilson-Raybould and SNC-Lavalin. What may happen next?

Continue reading “The Prime Minister and the Attorney General.”