Saturday, May 18, 2013

Updates: PEARL of Canadian arctic saved, cookie jar scandal unfolds

         In a surprising reversal, the Harper government has decided to refund the PEARL, the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory, located in Eureka, Nunavut. The world renowned center will receive $5 million over 5 years. Originally we wondered why the feds cut the funding. A million dollars per annum is a lot of money to me, but chicken feed for the federal government. The move seemed calculated to silence opponents of the government's pro-oil industry stance.

         Recently though, the wind has changed direction a bit on environmental issues and especially regarding the economics of the Albertan tarsands. The US government is now making greener noises making it harder for the Harper government to justify its strident anti-environment / pro-business position. Opposition to pipeline proposals to pump tarsand bitumen south of the border is also gaining ground. Worst of all, shale gas and oil development in the US threaten to undercut the tarsand oil market with cheaper product. Finally, if all that were not enough, the depressed global economy also depresses oil demand, exerting downward pressure on prices. This is not good for the Alberta tarsand industry since it is difficult and expensive to extract and transform.

          In this context, one suspects strongly that the Harper government is trying to pretty up its image down south of the border: Canada wants to be seen as a friend of the environment. The goal of course is to make Albertan tarsand derivatives more palatable against rising environmentalist opposition and disfavorable market conditions. What the hell, $1 million is chicken feed and they need a positive image if they are going to get that oil to flow south.

              Then there is the cookie jar scandal: senators claiming money for maintaining a secondary residence in the Ottawa area.

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               Senator Mike Duffy, an important crowd drawer on speaking tours for the Conservative Party, has "resigned" from the Coservative caucus to sit as an independent senator. Perhaps he was forced to fall on his sword, the stench of scandal rising too high. Audits have now revealed that Senator Duffy was claiming senatorial expenses while campaigning for the Conservatives in 2011. In addition Senator Pamela Wallin, also implicated in the cookie jar scandal, has also withdrawn from the conservative caucus to sit as an independent until an independent audit clears her of wrongdoing. Exciting times in Ottawa..

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