Can Harper be trusted to keep his word?

Based on his recent dealings regarding equalization and the Atlantic Accord, Stephen Harper cannot be trusted to keep his word. His approach to federal-provincial relations is akin to the behavior of a school-yard bully. Prior to the last election, Harper clearly promised to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia that he would maintain the agreement that Paul Martin had entered into with these provinces that ensured that they would not lose any benefits under equalization as a result of oil and gas revenues.

In his current budget Harper broke that promise. When challenged first by NL Premier Danny Williams and more recently by Nova Scotia Premier Rodney McDonald, Harper's response was: "Sue me". In today's Globe and Mail Jeffrey Simpson argues in favour of Harper's actions on the grounds that he made a stupid promise and hence was justified in breaking it.

I was extremely disappointed to read Simpson's comments. He seems to suffer from the central Canadian attitude: let the easterners eat cake. How can you excuse Harper's behavior on the grounds that he made a stupid promise? A promise made should be a promise kept. Harper's approach to federal/provincial relations, i.e. 'Sue me', is both childish and insulting. He may get his budget passed with the support of the BQ because of the pay-off to Quebec but he is alienating the Atlantic provinces and Sakatchewan. Harper's treatment of NL and Nova Scotia in particular is shameful. If Peter MacKay and Loyola Hearn had any cojones, they would have walked as Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey did two weeks ago.

The Iraq War and Privatization of Iraqui oil

U.S. presidential candidate Dennis Kuchinich maintains that the Iraq war has been about oil and that the U.S. should not be a party to any attempt, by multinational oil companies, to take over Iraq’s oil resources. J. Schenone has an interesting piece on Kuchinich's arguments.

Kucinich argues that Bush's Iraq legislation would lead to the privatization of Iraq’s oil making it very difficult for the US to end the war any time in the near future. Amongst his concerns are several benchmarks set up by the current U.S. administration for the Iraqi government; one of which required passage of a hydrocarbon law that the Bush administration has chosen to hide. Kuchinich further emphasizes that while many in Washington are contemplating linking funding for the war in Iraq to the completion of these benchmarks, insistence on the passage of any legislation that included insistence on the passage of a hydrocarbon act places the U.S. in a position of promoting the privatization of Iraq’s oil.

The proposed legislation ensures that “chief executives of important related petroleum companies” be represented on a Federal Oil and Gas Council, which approves oil and gas contracts. Kuchinich states that “this is akin to allowing foreign oil companies to approve their own contracts.” It further ensures that the “Iraqi National Oil Company, which is the oil company of the people of Iraq, has no exclusive rights for the exploration, development, production, transportation, and marketing of oil and that they must compete against foreign oil companies with rules that benefit the foreign oil companies. According to Kuchinich, the legislation does give the Iraq National Oil Company temporary control of the oil pipelines and export terminals, but then it directs the Federal Oil and Gas Council, which is controlled by foreign oil companies, to turn these assets over to any entity with no further instructions.
In a further effort to ensure that big oil companies gain control of Iraqi oil this legislation provides for 35 years of exclusive control over oil fields for foreign oil companies. These companies are further protected by a provision that guarantees Iraqis preference for jobs and services only as long as they do not place extra costs or inconveniences on the foreign oil companies. Any disputes regarding any matter between the State of Iraq and any foreign investors have to be submitted for arbitration to an international court and will not be decided upon by an Iraqi court.

Kuchinich appears to have a good foundation for his belief that the Iraq War was based on oil greed.


Russian nuclear waste risk and Putin sabre rattling

The Norwegian environmental group Bellona reports that tanks of spent nuclear fuel in Russia's Arctic are leaking and risk setting off an uncontrolled chain reaction. Degradation of cement that encases nuclear waste tanks on the Kola peninsula has already allowed salt water to seep in. It is claimed that the salt water is mixing with radioactive rods in tanks at the Andreeva Bay facility, and could set off a chain reaction whose fall-out could spread across northern Europe in a worst-case scenario. This is a scenario stright out of the pages of Richard Rohmer's latest novel Ultimatum(http:/cardinal47reads.blogspot.com). Meanwhile Russian President Putin turns up the with the West in a little sabre rattling. In an interview with western journalists, Putin said that Russia intends to aim its missile systems at targets in Europe in retaliation for the U.S. decision to establish antimissile bases there.According to Putin, Russia sees itself being forced into this position because of the actions of the United States. In 2002, the Americans withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and Washington has never signed the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe treaty, designed to end the Cold War military standoff.