Monday, March 29, 2010

Good to the Last Drop... if you can afford it.

This coming fall, the Government of Alberta will be amending Alberta's Water Act and expand the system of selling water to the highest bidder.

The idea of selling water rights to the highest bidder is repugnant to most Albertans. It seems this government is again trying to facilitate business at the risk of the environment and the well-being of average citizens. However, that doesn't seem to bother Mr. Stelmach, et. al. As long as what they do caters to industry (and particularly the petro-chemical industry) they ignore the long-term outlook of the province.

Alberta is the driest province in Canada with only 900 lakes (as opposed to 100,000) in Manitoba. Perhaps more than any other Canadian, Albertans understand the importance of water to the sustainability of our province... and our tradition of family farms. Access to fresh water is the birthright of every citizen. Water is precious and Albertans know it. For the sake of monetary gain, our current government is now contemplating limiting our access to water.

Unfortunately, we are governed by a party that cannot see the forest for the trees. Selling water to the highest bidder makes sense to this bunch government MLAs who believes everything in this province is up for sale. Short-term thinking for immediate profit. Nothing new for Alberta's PCs.

Selling water to the highest bidder... along with the loosened environmental oversight this province is behind bodes poorly for the future of this province. It will put the final nails into the coffin of many family farms and drive rural folks off their land. Unable to water livestock or crops, there will be an exodus from Alberta farms. The land will be left to those who can afford the highest bids for water... and who are they? You don't have to be a member of MENSA to figure it out.

As obvious and trite as it is to write... water is life. Selling water is equivalent to selling life. Water cannot be controlled by those with the most money. A government whose principles were to ensure the well-being of its citizens would never consider privatising water. The concept is simply absurd. Whoever controls water, controls life.

Water is a basic human right. Human rights cannot be paid for by those with access to the greatest financial power. Water is a resource that must be protected by responsible governments FOR the well-being of everyone... and not only those who can afford to exploit it.

Excuse the pun, but amendments to Alberta's Water Act ought to be a "watershed" event for this government. Choosing to give up Alberta's fresh water to the highest bidder ought to be the "straw" that breaks the back of this tired government.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

No Serious Threat

The latest edition of the Sherwood Park News has on it's front page a photo of the Suncor refinery in Strathcona belching out black and yellow smoke into the skies of Strathcona. The caption says:

"Smoke pours from the Suncor refinery in Strathcona County just off Baseline Road on Monday. The smoke was from a process upset but there was no serious threat to the public."

NO SERIOUS THREAT? Well... what kind of a threat does poisonous gas present to people living nearby?

Fire Department officials said the smoke was "a release of catalyst and hydrocarbons into the atmosphere."

I don't know about others, but looking at the crap that gets pumped into our skies day after day after day makes me very nervous. I work in the "Industrial Heartlan" in Sturgeon County and every day I pass chemical and fertilizers factories and LPG and Condensate docks where smoke stacks constantly flare and spew. I know that the railway rails my trains run over are constantly oxidized by the fallout of the cooling towers and pollution stacks.

I wonder what price we are paying for the life we are leading when we accept that this black and yellow smoke is something normal... something we should expect occasionally as a price for our modern lifestyles. Is the price perhaps too high? Are we turning a blind eye to the damage we are doing to ourselves. Do we let the corporations get away too easily with telling us there is "no serious threat" from the crap they spew into the environment?

Although Suncor claimed there was no serious threat to the public, they did admit to evacuating their own personnel from the site.

Suncor also claimed that air monitoring results were well within acceptable limits. We have to believe Suncor because the province doesn't actually test anymore. We've deregulated so far that we leave it up to the polluters to tell us whether they are polluting or not. That's just weird.

This particular release lasted only an hour, but I can tell you that these releases are not rare. The guys I work with at the Agrium fertiliser plant in Redwater have told me that if I am ever downwind of a yellow smoke release coming from one particular stack I should bend over and kiss my ass goodbye. Very reassuring.

When asked what effects people could see if they were exposed to the cloud, she repeated the air quality monitoring was within acceptable limits.

Day in and day out, our skies are filled with pollutants and crap that is the product of our "civilized" lives. We accept that they are not a danger to our well-being because the polluters tell us everything is okay.

I look at that black and yellow smoke and I just think... "no matter what they say, that just can't be good."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

MLA Speaks in New Sarepta

My little village isn't famous... yet. But we aim to make New Sarepta a center of public debate and open dialogue.

New Sarepta is found just 20 miles east of Leduc, and only a 30-minute drive from the southeast corner of Edmonton. It was once a thriving community with grain elevators, farm equipment dealerships, several stores and a couple of gas stations. Yet as the area around Edmonton has exploded with growth, New Sarepta has suffered because of the costs of keeping up with what larger centers have to offer.

New Sarepta has the potential to be a thriving rural community again. It's close to the city and virtually next door to the International Airport. Yet the question arises, how do communities like ours respond to the demands of modern society in a way that ensures we remain vibrant communities that attract new residents and sustainable development.

The Friends of the Library in New Sarepta has invited Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths to present "13 Ways to Kill Your Community" in the New Sarepta Agriplex on Tuesday, May 4th. Although titled with tongue-in-cheek, Doug Griffith's presentation addresses the issues surrounding the withering of Alberta's rural communities and is a must-attend event for anyone interested in the future of rural Alberta.

Doug Griffiths is one of the province's most gifted speakers and is concerned about the sustainability of Alberta's rural communities. Mr. Griffiths has become famous for his use of social media, often twittering and facebooking from inside caucus meetings.

Doug will be in the New Sarepta Agriplex on Tuesday, May 4th from 6:45 to give is noted presentation to area residents and local politicians. Everyone with interest in rural municipal affairs and the general direction of rural life in this province is welcome.

There will be no charge for attendance (though donations will be gratefully accepted). Beer and wine will be available as well as coffee, tea and light snacks.

Support our little local village and help build New Sarepta a place where ideas are discussed and debated openly and enthusiastically.

For more information, call me (Will) at 780-297-3811.

See you there.