PETRONAS Upstream and Down

gas productionOn March 25 2019 the BC NDP government passed a law conceding tax exemptions and commitments to low electricity prices to the industry. The NDP has, despite challenging the previous Liberals government on their concessions to the PETRONAS Lelu Island LNG  initiative, in fact often foreshadowed their present pro-LNG position. According to Carol Linnitt  this NDP concession amounts to an incentive package worth an estimated $5.35 billion (I presume this is calculated over the 40 year accounting period being used in appraising this development) to the LNG Canada consortium of which PETRONAS itself is a 25% stake-holder.

Although PETRONAS’ own $36-billion Pacific NorthWest LNG processing and shipping terminal on Lelu Island was aborted in the face of Lax Kwa’laams opposition and a collapsing market, this Malaysian crown corporation has persisted with its interest in downstream LNG development in British Columbia. Upstream, PETRONAS is presently one of  the largest producers of natural gas in the province and, according to Ben Parfitt, it is the “the single-largest subsurface rights holder of natural gas assets in Northeast B.C.” While PETRONAS is well set for prominence both upstream and downstream in the BC LNG industry it, there is a blockage for them midstream. Development of the connecting Coastal Gaslink pipeline has been retarded by determined resistance from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, through whose territory in must pass.

Image Modified from: https://www.bcogc.ca/node/15405/download

https://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/lng-deal-not-good-for-b-c-ndp-leader-says-as-legislation-introduced-1.1999376

https://thenarwhal.ca/6-awkward-realities-behind-b-c-s-big-lng-giveaway/

https://thenarwhal.ca/the-resource-b-c-is-piping-to-alberta-that-nobody-is-talking-about/

http://www.coastalgaslink.com/

Mahathir’s Error on the Jews

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s reputation for being ‘antisemitic’, was recently brought to mind by the problems experienced by his family in the movie business (in the context of investments made in the production of the film Dr Strange). In the interest of the truth, of his legacy, and perhaps even of his family’s business interests, I urge him to make one specific correction in his world Jewry rhetoric. As evidenced by the Senator Ilhan Omar affair, there is an urgent need to cleave in two the confused referent/s of these signifiers  –  ‘Jew’ and ‘Zionist.’  In fact, as explained by Rabbi Dovid Weiss in the Al Jazeera interview above, the conflation of these signs serves the cause of Zionism. Haderim (Ultra-Orthodox) Jews are amongst the firmest and truest defenders of Palestine and Palestinians. Many Muslim nations, communities and leaders have been fair weather friends of the Palestinians, but not these gentle, archaic and God fearing Jews. Just listen to the humility, clarity, love and courage expressed by the Rabbi, bearing in mind that his people resist Zionism from communities across the world and even, at great risk, from the within the heart of Israel (Haderim Jews constituted over 12% of Israel’s population in 2017). While I am tickled by the reflexive candour of Mahathir’s taxonomy of noses and comprehend the political expediency revealed in his explanation that ‘the people’  will understand better if he says ‘Yahudi‘ (Jews) instead of ‘Zionist’, I am nevertheless perplexed by, even ashamed of, his  perpetuation of this Zionist conflation, not least because it obscures the diversity of  positions held by the Jewish peoples, amongst whom are these staunch allies of Palestine! I hope that the good Dr. will be more nuanced in his use of the terms ‘Jewish’, ‘Zionist’ and even ‘Israeli’ before he ends his time on the world’s stage.

Maksud saya Yahudi bukan semestinya Zionis. Sila rujuk kepada – Yahudi yang Anti-Zionis, Yahudi yang Pro-Palestina)

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUppu2OHVTY&feature=youtu.be&t=98

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-malaysia-politics-mahathir-jews/back-to-old-habits-malaysias-mahathir-calls-jews-hook-nosed-idUSKCN1MC15T

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/468898

https://intpolicydigest.org/2019/03/15/on-ilhan-omar-and-anti-semitism/

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/240041

https://youtu.be/IDfpOdu8Bdc?t=171

https://tirto.id/yahudi-yang-anti-zionis-yahudi-yang-pro-palestina-cAYY

BRFN vs PETRONAS & BC

brfncrop

Northeastern British Columbia is rich in a diversity natural resources, which includes an abundance of Natural Gas, the extraction of which has become a 40 year project for PETRONAS Canada. Much of these resources lie on Indigenous lands but, it seems, as Amnesty International has claimed in a report titled Out of Sight, Out of Mind, that the Indigenous people are “excluded from a meaningful role in decision-making and bear a greater burden, including loss of culture and traditional livelihoods.” While they may acquiesce and sign benefit agreements,  it appears that in reality the indigenous people are dealing with the kind of ‘offers they cant refuse.’ As Blueberry River First Nation (BRFN) trapper, rancher, hunting guide and logger Brian Clarke notes pointedly, but without criticizing the oil and gas companies whom it seems first encroached on his trap lines and then provided him work ploughing snow or moving earth, “if you can’t beat them, you join them … And you can’t beat them.”

The amnesty report shows how the consequences go beyond environmental and land tenure considerations, deep into the very social fabric of these native communities. In summary, the report concludes, “The model of resource development, particularly the reliance on large numbers of transient workers, widens inequalities between Indigenous and nonIndigenous people and between women and men, negatively impacting Indigenous families’ access to food, housing and social services and increases risks of violence.” The report specifically criticizes government for failing to allocate sufficient resources to services necessary to meet these needs.

Natural Gas extraction (fracking) is only one of many resource activities, and PETRONAS only one of many corporate entities at work causing ‘disturbance’ in the Peace River area of Northeastern BC. These disturbances are evidenced in great detail in the David Suzuki Foundation 2016 report titled Atlas of Cumulative Landscape Disturbance in the Traditional Territory of Blueberry River First Nations. While there are many parties involved, it is PETRONAS that has recently and notably been the beneficiary of a British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) decision that exemplifies the powerful corporate/ administrative forces that the small native communities have to contend with. PETRONAS was given unprecedented retrospective approval for two massive dams that were built on Blueberry River First Nation (BRFN) land without obtaining legally required permissions and exemptions. BRFN’s legal counsel Maegan Giltrow has said that this decision has been made in the face of Blueberry’s repeatedly expressed concerns  about the diminishing water quality and quantity. 

According to BRFN lands manager Norma Pyle, the BRFN has been repeatedly sounding alarm bells to the Crown about the diminished water quantity in their territory, “We have been watching lake levels drop, muskeg disappear, mineral licks dry up and streams reduce to small versions of their former selves.” The Blueberry River First Nations submitted detailed commentary and evidence to the EAO against the granting of the post factum exemptions to PETRONAS, but to no avail. It is in this context that the BRFN recently withdrew of a wider treaty infringement claim against the Province of British Columbia alleging that the cumulative effects of industrial development on its territory had breached the government’s obligations under Treaty 8.

Sandy Carpenter, Sam Adkins and Josh Smith note that after consultation and negotiation between the BC Oil and Gas Commission (OGC), BRFN and the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, the parties signed a Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment Interim Measures Agreement, which prohibits or restricts new surface disturbance in defined critical areas of BRFN territory, while managing development activities in other specified areas. This interim agreement came into force on July 16, 2018. Without knowing the mitigation afforded the BRFN by the terms of the agreement, I venture to suggest that with  two previous court decisions against them, one can understand that they might have felt that you just cant beat them.

Image edited from: https://davidsuzuki.org/science-learning-centre-article/atlas-cumulative-landscape-disturbance-traditional-territory-blueberry-river-first-nations-2016/

https://www.alaskahighwaynews.ca/business/petronas-plans-40-years-of-steady-measured-development-in-b-c-montney-1.23527974

https://www.petronascanada.com/

https://www.amnesty.ca/sites/amnesty/files/Out%20of%20Sight%20Out%20of%20Mind%20ES%20FINAL%20EN%20CDA.pdf

https://thenarwhal.ca/blueberry-river-death-by-thousand-cuts/

https://www.policynote.ca/drain-it-petronas-subsidiary-ordered-to-take-action-at-two-controversial-fracking-dams/

https://projects.eao.gov.bc.ca/api/document/59c4361cf97b160018030811/fetch

http://www.mondaq.com/canada/x/724588/Oil+Gas+Electricity/BC+Restricts+Oil+And+Gas+Developments+In+Blueberry+River+First+Nation+Territory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LNG Pipeline vs Wet’suwet’en

PETRONAS is now a partner in the LNG Canada Kitimat project which involves building an export terminal intended to get natural gas from the North Montney fields to market in Asia. The Coastal Gaslink Pipeline connecting Dawson Creek to Kitimat is an essential part of the overall scheme. Gas from PETRONAS’ own North Montney fields to be delivered via the North Montney Mainline to join the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline at Dawson Creek. While there has been extensive first nations buy-in into the project, including from the elected Wet’suwet’en band council, the hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en nation, who claim responsibility for off-reserve affairs and for the stewardship of the larger territory through which the pipeline must pass have voiced serious objections. The Wet’suwet’en have established an Unist’ot’en checkpoint at in 2009 and have steadily developed the Unist’ot’en healing camp over the years. More recently and a second check point was established at neighbouring Gidimt’en to resist the passage of the pipeline.

So what is the significance of the blockade given the injunction and the overwhelming momentum of the provincial/ national /corporate resource agenda? Much of the land of  British Columbia was settled without treaties being reached with the respective First Nations. In a decision of the Supreme Court in Delgamuukw vs. British Columbia (1997), it was held that that Aboriginal title to land can be established if an Indigenous nation could prove exclusive occupation when the Crown asserted sovereignty. Delgamuukw did not however settle the Wet’suwet’en land claim and as such, it will require another trial to resolve the matter. According to law professor Kent McNeil, as reported in Houston Today, it is in this light that the hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en are “asserting their title on the ground and they’re saying you can’t do this without consent because it passes through our territory.”

According to the Tyee, on January 7th, in pursuance of a court injunction against the two checkpoints (not the healing camp as it is not in the way of the pipeline), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) tactical unit breeched and dismantled the Gidimt’en checkpoint, arresting 14 protesters.  According to The Interior News, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have negotiated with the RCMP to allow Costal Gaslink workers passage through the Unist’ot’en checkpoint for the duration of the injunction which lasts till May 1st 2019. As with PETRONAS’ previously aborted solo project on Lelu Island, their current joint venture in British Columbia’s LNG sector faces the vicissitudes of Canadian Law and politics in the context of our colonial legacy. If it is established that the Wet’suwet’en have Aboriginal title, then, according to Kent McNeil, the Provincial and Federal governments would need their consent before approving resource activities on this land. Even if such a finding of title is not arrived at, as with the previous PETRONAS project, indigenous resistance and the due process may cause enough delay for the joint venture LNG Canada project to run into the ever imminent ‘unfavourable conditions’ in the ever volatile market.

Image: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/kitimat-mayor-defends-lng-project-1.4971781

http://www.coastalgaslink.com/

https://www.reuters.com/article/petronas-canada/petronas-says-involved-in-transcanadas-proposal-to-build-north-montney-mainline-extension-idUSL3N1R524E

https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/1569/index.do

https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2019/01/08/LNG-Pipeline-Unistoten-Blockade/

https://www.interior-news.com/news/hereditary-chiefs-negotiate-injunction-agreement/

https://www.houston-today.com/news/unresolved-land-claim-at-heart-of-wetsuweten-pipeline-opposition/

 

The Burning Lavalin Question

civil service

The most striking revelation of the recent House of Commons Justice Committee hearings, for me, was not that the Prime Minister’s Office might have applied pressure on the Attorney General in a prosecutorial matter, not even that the top civil servant might have gone beyond the call of duty in effecting the Prime Minister’s will; no both of these scenarios fall, in my estimation, into the grey zone of governance – the realpolitik that belies the purported exemplitude of Euro-American democracy. No, what amazed me the most was the statement by the sitting Privy Council Clerk (the most senior civil servant in the Canadian government) Michael Wernick that, in the run-up to the crisis, he took a phone call and  Chairman of the Board at SNC-Lavalin, Kevin Lynch. According to Marie-Danielle Smith’s report on his testimony Mr Wernick said the following, “Mr. Lynch as the chair of the board expressed his frustration that he did not understand why a DPA (Deferred Prosecution Agreement) was not being considered and he knew that the board in its trustee relationships for the shareholders in the company was going to have to take some tough decisions in October and November.”

Again, it is not the fact that the purportedly impartial Clerk of the Privy Council took the frustrated call from the Chairman of the SNC-Lavalin Board per se that raised my concern, but the familiarity suggested by the tone and content of what seems to have been said, as well as the fact that the said Chairman, Kevin Lynch, was a former Clerk of the very same Privy Council! What kind of impartiality can we expect from our top civil servants while they serve in government if such powerful corporate positions are theirs for the taking in the wake of their governmental roles? More precisely, the burning question arising from the Lavalin affair is this, ‘What kind of impartiality can we expect from civil servants when their ilk, their peers, these former servants now communicate and advocate on behalf of the most powerful sector of the national polity?’ It seems to me that the parliamentary opposition’s accusations of partiality towards the Liberals directed at Mr. Warnick might be misplaced. Political partisanship does not seem, to me, to the kind of impartiality that is in question. Instead, what we might have been afforded, thanks the clerks own unflinching, unembarrassed, incontrite testimony, is a rare vista on the workings of what might be called the Canadian ‘administrative-industrial complex’ – the imbrication of money (corporations) and power (the civil service) in Canadian governance.

Indeed, while I believe that the Canadian civil service is impartial with regard to party politics, given the thrust and orientation of the Clerk ‘s testimony and the implications of his account of this relationship between corporate leaders and the Canadian Civil Servants (that they can, diachronically, be embodied in the same person!), I can not express the same faith with regard to the Civil Services’ impartiality towards the diverse sectional interests of Canadian society. I do not intend to impute impropriety on the part any individual. The question is of much wider significance. What I am calling for, given the functions of stability and continuity entrusted to the Civil Service in our democracy, is a consideration of the propriety of the enmeshment of money and power, as evidenced in the corporate appointments of former senior civil servants and the kinds of communications this seems to enable. We may not suffer the aggressive corporate lobbying practiced of our more scrutable neighbours to the south, but up here in Canada, given the kind of connections highlighted by Mr. Wernick’s testimony, corporations may not need to deploy such brutish means to achieve their ends.

 

 

The Rashomon Effect!

roshomon effecrOf the 5 accounts (the woodcutter’s original account, the raped wife’s, the bandit’s, the murdered husband’s ghost’s, the woodcutters second account) of the truth of events in Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 masterpiece, Rashomon, the last version is preceded by the woodcutter’s ‘honest contrition’ (as film critic Ritchie has called it in his Criterion Collection commentary), rendering it, for me, the most believable of the versions. In the ongoing SNC Lavalin affair, there has been, in the testimonies given so far to the House of Commons  Justice Committee, no sign of any such contrition! In former principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Gary Butts’ nonchalant, “I am fully aware that two people can experience the same event differently,”  we have an acerbic invocation of the multiplicity of realities that can accrue from one set of events, a multiplicity that has become known as the ‘Rashomon effect.’ If Gary Butts showed no contrition, the Privy Council Clerk (the most senior civil servant in the Canadian government) Michael Wernick was positively bristling with indignation as he revealed, amongst other titbits, how the Chairman of the Board at SNC-Lavalin, Kevin Lynch, from whom he took a phone call in the run-up to the crisis, was a  former Clerk of the very same Privy Council! … O Canada!

Previous Posts on this affair –
Its the neo-liberal Economy Stupid
A Key to the SNC-Lavalin Affair

Collaged from: https://drafthouse.com/show/rashomon

Collaged From: https://warriorpublications.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/indian-act-chiefs-and-idle-no-more-snakes-in-the-grassroots/

https://globalnews.ca/news/5025941/gerald-butts-testimony-transcript/https://www.greybrucethisweek.ca/news/politics/two-people-can-experience-the-same-event-differently-gerald-butts-offers-his-take-on-the-snc-lavalin-scandal/wcm/45ac3263-88aa-48f6-8adf-eb8c5b23c3b1?video_autoplay=truehttps://globalnews.ca/news/5025938/gerald-butts-dinner-jody-wilson-raybould/https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/michael-wernick-live-testimony-on-snc-lavalin

https://www.greybrucethisweek.ca/news/politics/thats-the-bar-its-not-criminal-key-exchanges-from-the-michael-wernick-testimony/wcm/95bafc7f-c950-44fe-ab44-8d9b0b025daa

Its the Neoliberal Economy Stupid

4 Tunai itu RajaIn the run-up to Malaysia’s 14th General Elections, 2018, Machiavellian maestro Mahathir Mohamad deployed the slogan Cash is King! to devastating effect against then incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak, imbricating him in a narrative of shameless corruption. While the matter of Najib’s corruption is yet to be heard in law, it has been decided in public opinion, as Mahathir has now, at 92 years of age, returned as the oldest serving Prime Minister in the world. Mahathir’s meme imprinted in popular Malaysian consciousness the sense (regardless of veracity) that Najib’s corruption was qualitatively worse that anything that had transpired before, much of which had happened under Mahathir’s own watch.

The question of corruption is also currently under the spotlight in Canada by way the ongoing SNC Lavalin affair, in which it is alleged that the Prime Minister’s Office’s (PMO) put pressure upon the Attorney General of Canada to act in the interest of the said corporation in a criminal matter. (Please see my previous post for a Key to the SNC Lavalin Affair) The question at hand is whether this pressure was exerted on the  Attorney General, in an improper manner, vis-a-vis the ‘Rule of Law.’ The stakes, for the time being, appear to be ‘merely’ political.  Whether or not this pressure broke federal obstruction-of-justice laws is not as yet in question. It appears, however, that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has been urged to begin criminal investigations by five former Federal and Provincial Attorney’s General. Equally it appears that, it could be argued that in terms of the rules and values of our system there is no illegality, not even a scandal, just another Wilson-Raybould storm in another Trudeau teacup. This seems to be what seasoned commentator Bsuggests in her article, “Look Away. There’s no scandal here with SNC-Lavalin.”  Yes, it’s just business as usual in accord with the norms of Canadian governance.

The point is that corruption is not confined to its legal definition. It arises within and operates through legitimate transactions of all kinds. In writing about bribery, law and morality, John Thomas Noonan has said that “the common good of any society consists not only in its material possessions but in its shared ideals. When these ideals are betrayed, … the common good, … suffers injury.” I suggest, with reference to Marx and Hugo, that it is the unbridled annexation of common material possessions as private property that constitutes the betrayal of the shared ideals and injures the common good. This is the corruption that is enshrined in the laws that uphold neoliberalism. Indeed, regardless of illegality, the effect of the unmitigated monetization of common possessions is degrading to our humanity.

The legality or propriety of a particular exertion of pressure or proffering of inducement, critical though it is in terms of the workings of a given society, is trivial in the face of the bending of governance, the making of laws included, to the will of a powerful section of actors. What good is the adherence to the Rule of Law, if the laws, whose rule is upheld, engender a stilted and degenerate social order …  Here in Canada and throughout the world, this seems to be the default operating mode of the neoliberal political economy – wherein, by fair means or foul, the monetization of common possessions reigns over the common good … but there are exceptions  …  There are indeed, some striking instances of resistance to the all enticing ‘Cash.’ … In 2015 Malaysian Oil and Gas giant PETRONAS offered the tiny Lax Kw’alaams community $1.15 billion in exchange for their support for the building of an LNG terminal on Lelu Island in the Skeena watershed, but the community categorically declined the offer. They refused to convert the common possessions into ‘Cash,’ showing British Columbians and Malaysians alike, that there are, indeed, alternative values and alternative ways.

The image above, titled  7 Cash is King!, is a visualization for a photograph that will be a part of the Berhijrah (Migration) Series of my Koboi Project. This image is being developed as a remix of Mahathir’s political slogan, Zig Zag’s powerful political cartoon and my own apolitical ‘black hat’ Cowboy.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2015/06/13/dr-m-najib-told-me-cash-is-king/914991

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/mahathir-sworn-in-as-7th-malaysian-pm

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2019/03/01/5-ex-attorneys-general-call-for-rcmp-probe-into-snc-lavalin-affair_a_23681656/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IchVHyfBO9Y

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-look-away-theres-no-scandal-here/

http://blogs.worldbank.org/futuredevelopment/moral-dimensions-corruption

https://pressprogress.ca/near-monopoly-canadas-economy-is-dominated-by-a-small-handful-of-corporations-experts-warn/

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/sep/12/global-justice-now-study-multinational-businesses-walmart-apple-shell

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/true-north/2016/mar/20/by-rejecting-1-billion-for-a-pipeline-a-first-nation-has-put-justin-trudeaus-climate-plan-on-trial

https://warriorpublications.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/indian-act-chiefs-and-idle-no-more-snakes-in-the-grassroots/