Friday, November 26, 2010

Alberta Social Credit Party Leader's Report for 2010

Delivered at the Annual General Meeting of the party in Innisfail, Alberta on November 20, 2010 by LensSkowronski.

Mr. Chairman, fellow Socreds and most welcome guests,

I am pleased to inform you that “YOU ARE ALL MILLIONAIRES!”

How do we assess our material worth? First, we add-up all our assets that have a definite monetary value such as bank accounts, GICs, RRSPs, stocks and bonds. To this we add the current or estimated value of physical assets that we wholly or partially own, such as our house and its contents, car, land and minerals. Then from this total, we subtract our debts such as bank loans, mortgages and credit card balances to get our net worth.

Except for the minerals under the free-hold lands granted to the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Canadian Pacific Railway, the minerals in Alberta are owned by all the citizens of Alberta. All of the oilsands are owned by all Albertans.

There are an estimated 1.5 trillion barrels of oil in our oil sands. At the current base price of $ 80/barrel, the oil sands are worth $120 trillion. The population of Alberta is 3.7 million. Therefore, each Albertan owns a 32 million dollar share of the oilsands!

Now aren’t you glad you came to this meeting. You will leave knowing that you are $32 million richer than you thought you were.

But you should also come away with a strong sense of responsibility to assure that most of this wealth is kept in Alberta and shared equitably amongst all Albertans.

Unfortunately, we are not keeping much of this wealth. If we continue exporting bitumen instead of higher-priced crude oil we could lose $20 trillion of our oilsands wealth.

Currently, 55% of our oil and gas industry is owned by foreigners and is increasing without control. If the current ownership percentage and profit margin of the oil sands companies were projected though the life of the resource, we would ship $10 trillion to foreigners.

In total, we could lose $30 trillion that could have benefited us, our children, grandchildren and their children and grandchildren. Now this is the case at $80/barrel. Analysts predict that oil will double and may even triple the current price. So our loss could be doubled or tripled!

Is this loss of our wealth inevitable? No!

At one time banks and nations used to be on the gold standard. If a bank had X amount of gold in its vault then it could lend out X amount of money. If a nation had Y amount of gold in its vaults it could circulate Y amount of currency. Of course, banks and nations no longer keep to this standard and virtually create money out of the air with little backing for their loans or currency. But they would agree that the gold standard is a much more fiscally responsible monetary policy.

We Albertans are fiscally responsible people so let’s keep to a gold standard. If Albertans had $120 trillion dollars worth of gold stored in vaults, no one would question its right to issue $120 trillion dollars through our financial arm, the Alberta Treasury Branch, as loans to Albertans and Alberta-owned corporations. We have $120 trillion dollars in black gold stored in sandy vaults in northern Alberta.

Therefore, we have the capital to mine our oilsands and to build plants that will upgrade all the bitumen produced. We do not need anymore foreign investment! We do not need to send any more of our wealth outside of Alberta!

Also, we do not need to send anymore of our wealth to the banks and mortgage companies. We can provide no-interest mortgages to Albertans. This would leave the average home-owner with hundreds of thousands of dollars now spent on interest to be spent on other needs.

For example, a couple buying their first home will have to take a mortgage of $300,000 or more. At an interest rate of 5% over a 30 year term, they will pay $280,000 in interest to a bank or mortgage company. If we directed the ATB to provide Albertans with no-interest mortgages with an annual administration fee of $1000 then the total cost of the loan would be $30,000, resulting in a saving of $250,000.

Imagine the boon to our economy, if hundreds of thousands of home-owners had this extra money to spend instead of giving it to the rich bankers.

If we Albertans take control of our credits such as the oil sands, we will no longer be in debt to the bankers. The resulting wealth will provide for our social needs: health care, education, seniors’ support, communication, transportation, energy, shelter, food, etc. That’s Social Credit!

By now, you are probably aware that I am deeply concerned about the ravaging of our wealth by the multi-national oil and gas companies and banks. Of the 20 letters and news releases I sent to the media and published on our website since the last AGM, 10 were concerning this issue.

These letters have proven to be a successful no-cost method of publicizing our party. They have been published in many newspapers throughout Alberta. It was because of these letters appearing in the Edmonton newspapers, that disgruntled members of the Alberta Party contacted me when seeking a new political home. As a result, we now have an Edmonton Area Council and three new constituency associations in Edmonton-Calder, Edmonton-Centre and Edmonton-Goldbar. We are fortunate that several of these new members are present.

I am pleased to introduce Charles Relland, former President of the Alberta Party and Bob Whyte, President of the Edmonton Area Council and Secretary of Edmonton-Centre.

I have also been sending out email messages on a regular basis to all members and past members who have email addresses. I have had favourable responses from several recipients.

Through the year, I have done some travelling in Alberta on behalf of the Party. I attended a Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Brooks with the generous support of Gordon and Charlene Musgrove. I received good coverage from the local newspapers and radio station. I attended a dinner at Pollockville where the Premier was a guest and alerted him about the dissatisfaction regarding the proposed new riding boundaries. Again, the Musgroves paid for the dinner tickets for Nadie and me. I travelled to Barrhead to attend a constituency association meeting. I attended the presentation of the government’s budget in the Legislature. The board of directors and I served beef on a bun at the Innisfail Horseshoe Tournament.

I have absorbed the transportation costs to these events as well as to the monthly board of directors meetings held in Innisfail. As a result, I was able to attend these events at no cost to the Party.

I would have liked to visit many more constituencies throughout the province but this would have required funds from the party which it doesn’t have. We need to get out and meet the people if we want to build constituency associations. It would be fruitful to have a town-hall meeting in each of the 87 ridings. But we need funds to pay for advertising, hall rental, transportation and accommodation.

Danielle Smith had $250,000 to meet with people throughout the province during the Wildrose Alliance leadership campaign. As a result thousands of memberships were sold which gave the party the boost to become considered a major player in Alberta.

If we are to compete with the other political parties in Alberta, we need funds to do so. Where do we get these funds? Brian Mason, proposed that each member of the NDP donate at least $500 towards the upcoming election campaign. Could we do the same? This shouldn’t be a burden for anybody who is gainfully employed. After the tax credit, the donator is only $200 out of pocket.

There are many more ways to raise funds and I leave this as a challenge to you the members of the Alberta Social Credit Party.

There is a saying “It takes money to make money”. If we are to save trillions of dollars of our wealth, we need to get Socreds into the Legislative Assembly. To elect MLAs, we need money to attract, recruit and support good candidates in the coming election.

In the end, “It’s all about our money!”

Return to Alberta West News

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Should the Alberta government be subsidizing ethanol plants?

By Joe Anglin
The Alberta government has spent tens of millions of taxpayer’s dollars subsidizing bio-mass ethanol plant projects. As a business model, bio-mass ethanol plants are a prime example of corporate welfare that has so far proven to be uneconomical. Most every bio-mass ethanol plant in operation relies heavily on perpetual taxpayer subsidies in one form or another. Now Florida based Dominion Energy Services LLC is proposing to build an ethanol plant in Innisfail, and Aspen Bio-Energy Corp is proposing to build an ethanol plant in Rimbey. What makes them different? Can they change the current model and succeed without continuous government subsidies?

To arrive at an answer it helps to understand how the industry currently operates today. As major investors in ethanol plants, British Petroleum (BP) and Agri-business conglomerates Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Cargill are skilled at obtaining taxpayer subsidies to facilitate structured deals designed to eliminate or reduce their risk in bio-mass ethanol production. Unfortunately risk is never reduced. In these types of deals, risk is transferred from the investor (owner) to the taxpayers and the unsuspecting farmers who are lulled into investing in the plant believing this is a great opportunity to establish a new market.

Typically, structured deals for these ventures consist of leveraging the borrowing capacity of the owner with a large taxpayer cash grant to finance construction and begin operations. It is not uncommon for the plant’s primary owner to demand reimbursement of their equity before any other funds are disbursed or distributed. Deals structured this way generally allow the owner to default on obligations while still drawing a profit. Most all the risk in these types of structured deals is transferred to the unrepresented, uninformed and unsuspecting taxpayers and farmers.

A good example of the transfer of risk recently surfaced in Billings Montana. The bio-mass plant in Billings reportedly failed to pay farmers $1.2 million dollars, while investors enjoyed the protection of $1.9 million dollars in taxpayer grants.

In contrast to BP, Cargill, and ADM who have extremely large balance sheets and lots of experience, Dominion Energy Services and Aspen Bio-Energy have little resources and even less experience to build or manage a bio-mass ethanol plant. Dominion is owned by a Florida based hedge fund and has said it can only proceed if subsidies continue. As a former hedge fund manager, I can say with some confidence, hedge funds have been successful in making money for their hedge fund, but there is little evidence to support they succeed in any other discipline.

Aspen Bio-Energy Corp appears to have less resources and less experience than Dominion. Aspen appears to only have two employees: Onkar Dhaliwal (CEO) and Sandip K. Lalli (VP and CFO). To date they have received a $5 million dollar grant from the province, and another $400,000 from a grant obtained by the town of Rimbey. Rimbey has also contributed an additional $70,000 above the designated $400,000 grant, and has collected over $138,000 in an account called “Investor Contributions”. This account is disturbing because it portrays the town as a broker (the mayor has charged taxpayers over $18,000 in related expenses) for Aspen. Under normal accounting procedures, investor contributions should be listed on Aspen’s balance sheet -- not the town of Rimbey’s. I have formally requested clarification from Rimbey’s town manager, but so far there has been no explanation provided. In summary, Aspen has not disclosed any financial records to the public. I cannot find a prospectus, a website or any evidence that Aspen is actually searching for potential investors, but I am told they are searching.

It is difficult to believe that Dominion and Aspen can succeed where BP, Cargill, and ADM have not. After all BP, Cargill, and ADM employ thousands of scientists and engineers that can research these matters. Confidence is further shattered when Rimbey’s officials claim Aspen’s new secret technology will allow them to succeed without perpetual taxpayer subsidies. Ironically this claim is being made about a company that appears to be solely capitalized by government grants, and has its investor contributions posted to a municipality’s balance sheet.

Bio-mass ethanol plants may work or may not work without massive government subsidies. There seems to be no end to the debate surrounding this matter and little in the way of answers. Without answers it would be wise to transparently structure the deals for a bio-mass ethanol plant to advance the interests of the true risk takers – the taxpayers and farmers. Then again, we might be even wiser if the government directed its subsidies to invest in research and development in the sciences at the university level, rather than giving millions of taxpayer dollars to private companies that are skilled at filling out grant applications.

Joe Anglin
(403) 843-3279
Rimbey, AB

Monday, May 24, 2010

Grad Tea speech

by Pam Wright
To the young women here - I am deeply humbled for the opportunity to address you today. I am grateful to your families who pushed you and believed in you; thank you so much. I am thrilled and so honored to be here to help celebrate our extraordinary young women of the class of 2010.

Let us take a moment to thank your moms – those unsung heroines who advocated for and believed in you, those moms who gave up weekends to attend sports competitions and celebrations, who put up with your bad moods, your friends, your over-the-top emotional drama queen moments- the moms who took those late night phone calls even when you were just calling to ask for money, the moms whose love sustains you every single day. Today is their day, too.

As your time at Caroline School comes to a close, the beginning of a new world awaits. Whether that world remains here in the familiar community of Caroline, or whether it means that you spread your wings on journeys to other distinctly different settings, it will be a time of anticipation, hope, and anxiety. Although my graduation year is well behind me, my school experience set the course for all future endeavors.

Allow me to illustrate in a social, emotional and historical context the pop-culture scene of the time. Unprecedented political change was taking place around the world, the war in Viet Nam, poverty and destruction in Bangladesh, the horror of the Jamestown Massacre, powerful religious movements to the right and to the left, the Ku Klux Klan and the Civil Rights Movement, the rise of feminism- the women’s movement -the birth control pill; new democratic leadership in the United States, anti-establishmentarianism, anti-Semitism, peace, love, sex, drugs and rock and roll. Young people pushed for freedoms that had never been experienced before, and willingly confronted everything that hinted of authority.

Speaking of a cultural revolution, these years also witnessed young women hitch-hiking all over Canada, the US and Europe with nothing more promising than a Mountain Equipment pack strapped to our backs and a mere $100 in our pockets. We astounded our parents and frightened ourselves when we stepped out of our comfort zone and saw what the rest of the world looked like. But we liked the exhilaration of owning our future and we enthusiastically embraced realms well beyond the security and predictability of home.

Those of us who were ready for these challenges became responsible and ‘more worldly’. We came to believe that we were in charge of our future. This was a new age for women and found us in significant numbers entering university and college programs that had for all time, been the domain of young men. Departments of law, science, religious studies, engineering, carpentry, welding, plumbing, management, leadership – these programs and many more attracted and challenged young women to fields traditionally intended for our male counterparts. We felt empowered, and I wanted to be part of the change. I needed to make a decision about my future. The problem was- I had no idea.

In my confusion, I did know some things. For example, I knew that I needed to go to post-secondary if I was going to make something of myself. I knew that I loved to learn, and I sensed that I was meant to contribute. I just wasn’t sure what I was meant to learn or how I was meant to contribute and I desperately needed guidance. I looked to God for direction, and on one dark winter night in Jasper, I received His help. My confusion began to ebb during a moment of serendipity, unquestionably led by God. Let me tell you about it.

I cut across the yard of the elementary school in Jasper one very late bitterly cold and windy winter night on my way to pick up a few things at the local corner store. I was angry at the ridiculous hardship that the cold weather demanded- bundling up in a bulky parka, struggling with snow-pants that nearly swallowed me up, big clunky boots that were difficult to put on and take off feet that were often more cold than warm. My toque was uncomfortable and itchy and made my hair an absolute mess, and no matter how many layers of mittens I had on my hands, the cold chill never seemed to lessen. On this very late night, I resented the cold; I resented the wind; and I resented the fact that against my wishes, I had to be outside.

As I plodded on through the schoolyard with my angry little self, I noticed a light on inside one of the classrooms. This light somehow drew me closer and I began to forget how uncomfortable I was. I approached the window curiously and stopped in the crunching snow. As I peered inside, I saw a young woman standing at the chalk-board. Her slender back was toward me, so I knew she couldn’t have seen me watching her. She was writing notes on the board for her morning class of youngsters. I watched for only a few moments, but the image of her in that classroom that late night has never left me. In those few treasured moments, my world stood still. I became entranced. My heart stopped beating, I no longer felt cold, I no longer felt anger, and I no longer felt unsure about my future. I was mesmerized. I felt transformed and I realized I was changed. A reckoning came over me as I slowly and quietly backed away from the window to continue my errands. My heart quickened, my shoulders straightened, and a deep sense of awe and comfort overcame me as I realized the importance of what I’d witnessed. I applied to the University of Lethbridge in the Bachelor of Education program that spring.

I guess I must have completed my errands that dark wintery night, but life was never the same for me from that time onward. I do remember that I kept this awe-inspiring experience to myself for a long time. Finally, when I shared my story with a close friend, we realized that I had experienced an epiphany. God had spoken to me that night. He had brought clarity to my future when he laid his hands on my shoulders. He wrapped himself around me and led me to begin my life’s work. I no longer had any fear about the future; I have no fear of anything really. I really understand that I am God’s child and that He has guided me through everything that has come to pass since that miraculous night and will continue to be there for me until the end.

According to Wickipedia, an epiphany is the sudden realization or comprehension of the larger essence or meaning of something. For me, this was the meaning of life. I had been given a puzzle piece, and I could now see a whole picture for myself. I had a deeper foundational frame of reference for what needed to be done.

Fired up and moving forward on my conviction to complete a Bachelor of Education, I knew deep inside that I was going to receive my convocation through God’s blessing. I was driven to complete a demanding four year program in three years and achieved an honors standing. As I left the university on the last day of class to begin my first teaching assignment, I knew God’s hand had been guiding me the entire time. Years later, and with God leading the way, I applied and was accepted into a Masters Program. Upon receiving honors with distinction in this study, I was recommended to the Doctorate Program to complete a PhD. Was God with me? Yes!

Students, you have worked so hard and invested so much of yourselves. During your time at Caroline School, your teachers have become mentors; your classmates have become lifelong friends. You have taken this school and made it your own. Go forward to learn with hope in your hearts and faith in your God-given potential. When you think of how far you’ve come and how far our school has come, it just once again reminds you that God is good.

You now have opportunities that you never could have imagined before. The journey hasn’t been easy. It was your internal drive that kept you focused, kept you out of trouble, and will earn you admission into the next phase of your life. You dug deep; you stepped up your game. Now, a new set of challenges awaits you. Challenge isn’t easy- and I know it can be frustrating- particularly for young people who have been raised in a popular culture that doesn’t always value hard work and commitment, glorifies easy answers and instant gratification, the fast food, the instant messaging, the easy credit.

Your generation has come of age in a culture that celebrates fleeting reality TV fame rather than the hard labors of lasting success. It’s a culture that elevates today’s celebrity gossip over the serious issues that will shape our future for decades to come. It’s a culture that tells us that our lives should be easy- that suffering and struggle should be avoided at all costs, and that we can have everything we want without a whole lot of effort. But we all know that life really doesn’t work that way.

So graduates, I’d like to suggest that – contrary to what you might see on TV or in the tabloids- few things worth achieving happen in an instant, and there’s often great value in great struggle. It’s only by embracing, rather than shrinking from challenges; it’s only by setting and striving for our own ambitious bars that we become what we are truly meant to be.

Lessons I’ve learned from my experiences allow me to pass on some advice to you. I know for sure that all along the way, God is with you. You may not know this, you may not ask Him, you may not turn to Him, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t with you. He will reach out to you before you reach out to Him. When you get discouraged- and you will, when you start to lose heart and want to give up- and you will, I want you to think about all those who have supported you through your journey. You will come to realize that once you overcome one obstacle, another challenge will push your goal a step further. Pulling through these challenges will help build you up. It’s your stamina that serves Him every single day. You can all be strong- you can all achieve. Declare a testament that sacrifices and fights for goals that will make you stronger.

Your life experiences will become a source of grace for you. It will guide you in developing your sense of self and give you purpose as you discover where you fit in this vast world that God has created for you. Good Luck and God Bless.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It Is Time Alberta Takes The Lead!

On December 19, 2007 the CEO of TransCanada was asked whether he expected public opinion in Alberta to be against the construction of new facilities - potentially including a nuclear plant - that would produce power for export into the United States. "That kind of thinking is very short-sighted and ill-founded," he said.

The issues relating to the production of electricity from nuclear energy are complex and numerous, but to label the public’s concern as short-sightedness, in view of the frugal common sense of the average informed Albertan, these comments are condescending at best.

To promote the development of nuclear power, the industry claims that nearly 44 million kilowatt-hours of electricity can be produced from one tonne of uranium. In comparison, the same amount of electrical power produced from coal or natural gas requires the burning of over 20,000 tonnes of coal, or 8.5 million cubic metres of natural gas. This visibly pro-nuclear comparison is deceptively accurate, but it is definitely misleading if one considers that it takes approximately 20,000 tonnes of high-grade uranium ore to produce enough enriched uranium fuel to operate a 1000 MW nuclear power reactor each year. These comparisons may appear confusing, so the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) simplified the comparison and displays on its website that electricity produced from nuclear cost $30 per megawatt versus $29.10 per megawatt for coal. However the NRC study footnotes reveal that their nuclear reactor costs do not reflect federal subsidies, decommissioning costs, capital costs, waste containment costs, and transmission costs.

It should also be noted that the comparison is based on the availability of high-grade uranium ore, and the availability of this ore is a major concern for the industry as the world’s inventory is consumed. Presently the world’s inventory of high-grade ore sits at 5.5 million tonnes. This is expected to grow as exploration continues however, at the current rate of consumption (65,000 tonnes annually) the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency (IAEA-NEA) estimates that the world’s supply is expected to only last 200 years. Further, as the world consumes and depletes its inventory of the high-grade uranium ore, the number of tonnes of low-grade uranium ore required to produce 1-tonne of enriched fuel is expected to rise exponentially, forcing up the cost of electricity. Ironically, in anticipation of the depletion this inventory, research is underway to develop a process to extract uranium from coal ash. It is almost comical to think we would burn coal, to create ash, in order to extract uranium, so that we would not need to burn coal to produce electricity.

The economic business model supporting the development of nuclear power in Alberta is significantly flawed. On a cost per fuel basis the nuclear power industry has to deceptively manipulate the cost of uranium to even be in the same league as coal or natural gas. Add to that the associated costs of safety and environmental risks, and electricity produced from nuclear energy is completely uneconomical. In support of this finding, Bruce Power, the company proposing to build a nuclear power plant in Peace River has just announced they will need a subsidy from Alberta’s government before they can build a nuclear power plant.

Without even considering the environmental or safety issues (costs) associated with a nuclear power plant, it is economically inconceivable to build a nuclear power plant in Peace River unless the public subsidizes the project with tens of billions of dollars worth of transmission line infrastructure. In summary, if the private sector was required to build the infrastructure they would categorize such an investment as foolishly uneconomical! Why then does our government think this is a good investment for the public?

What should Albertans do when we have over 400 years worth of coal and over 200 years worth of natural gas (including shale gas) at our disposal? For a fraction of the $16.6 billion transmission line upgrades proposed by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), Albertans should invest in transmission lines connecting Alberta to B.C. and Manitoba. Rather than building transmission lines from north to south (for export) to subsidize coal and nuclear generators, an east west transmission line policy would provide access to the abundant supply of cheap hydro-power, and provide western Canada with energy security. If we had a truly progressive government we could adopt an accelerated policy to decommission the coal generators and replace them with gas fired generators. Gas generators are cleaner burning and far more efficient than coal and nuclear because gas generators can actually be turned off when not in use. Nuclear and coal must run continuously whether or not the electricity is being used, creating a scenario whereby nearly 50% of all electricity produced is wasted.

A rapid transition to natural gas electricity generation, supplemented with the development of electric hydro power would stimulate Alberta’s economy, particularly the gas drilling sector. This could create thousands of jobs and catapult Alberta from being one of the worst emitters of CO2 to exceeding the Kyoto protocols on climate change. This in turn would reduce the need for carbon capture technology saving the public billions of tax dollars previously set aside for CCS. Add to this a feed-in-tariff policy for clean renewable energy and Alberta could find itself the world’s leader in the development of clean renewable energies in the matter of a few years.

In summary, Albertans need to stop asking what we should do, and starting acting on what we can do! It is time we lead by example!

Joe Anglin
Rimbey AB
(403) 843-3279

Monday, March 29, 2010


By Joe Anglin

Oscar Wilde once said, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing”. These words may never be more accurate or prophetic if one employs them to describe the Alberta Government’s on-going efforts to deregulate and commoditize water. This is why we should be questioning the common-sense, or lack thereof, of privatizing water before blindly racing to create a market for all of Alberta’s water. Albertans understand the value of water more than most, because we live in an arid province. In southern Alberta alone last year, 10 counties declared a state of emergency due to drought.

The economic theory driving the commoditization of water can be traced to the published works of economist Milton Friedman and his disciples at the Chicago School of Economics. The theory simply adheres to the prescribed doctrine of privatization, meaning everything should be bought and sold freely because the market knows best. One of Friedman’s more famous protégés, economist Gary Becker, not only promotes the economic theory to privatize water, he also advocates for a free market in human organs. He justifies his belief in these economic tenants on the premise the public welfare would increase if the rich were able to pay the poor for their kidneys or water rights.

This is essentially an ideological position, but it is not difficult to comprehend what could happen to the quality of life in rural Alberta, if the fundamental ingredients of life were priced and made available for sale to the highest bidder. The privatization of water would be the death knells for the family farm and many small rural communities, because they simply will not be able to compete with industry's thirst for water. While some farmers may choose to quit farming and profit in the near-term by selling their water rights, industrial forces [corporations] seeking to monopolize water have already laid down the legislative framework in Alberta to, [in effect], steal water rights by simply purchasing the aquifer out from under them. The Land Stewardship Act creates the framework that could remove water rights altogether or just deny rural communities and property owners fair compensation for their water rights. For example: section 19 of the Act states, “No person has the right to compensation by reason of this Act”. This is not to say the public will not receive compensation, but if the Land Stewardship Act is applied to help facilitate a water market, it does affect and over-rule 26 other pieces of legislation, including the Water Act and the Municipal Government Act.

Free market principles have their zealots and skeptics, but rarely does anyone ever question or debate whether the value of something can be truly expressed in monetary terms. Without water nothing lives; in effect water is one of the foundations of life. The value a corporation would place on human life or water may always be expressible in monetary terms, but does that truly correspond to the value humans place on life? If we privatize water, will the public be price makers or price takers on our own lives? It is a valid question we should be asking before Alberta’s government privatizes water, lest we forget the immoral example of Ford Motor Company’s decision to continue producing the Pinto because the average cost of $200,725 per death settlement, resulting from a gas leak, was cheaper than a $12 fix per vehicle. The Ford example is not isolated; there are many examples of corporations placing profits over human life.

The seriousness of this issue cannot be understated. Whoever controls the water in this province -- controls life! The value of water is priceless, and it is why it should remain regulated in the public domain!

Joe Anglin
(403) 843-3279
Rimbey AB

Monday, March 1, 2010


"400,000 Miles of Drinking Water Pipes
May Have Been Made With The Deadly Substance" by Barbara Robson

The prospect is chilling: by best estimates, about 20 million people have had significant exposure to cancer causing asbestos on the job. Three hundred thousand Americans are expected to die of asbestos related cancer in the next twenty to thirty years. Now, the deadly substance is contaminating drinking water around the continent.

Asbestos is one of the most potent carcinogens known to man. Cancer now claims at least one life an hour among people who inhaled it on the job. As many as 200,000 wives and children of asbestos workers will also grow ill merely from washing asbestos laden clothes or being exposed at their homes.

The American Congress passed legislation in 1984 to control asbestos hazards in the building materials of 31,000 schools attended by some 13 million children. And asbestos is present in millions of houses, apartments and buildings.

Now, alarming levels of invisible, needle like fibers of asbestos have been discovered in tap water. Much of it comes from an estimated 400,000 miles of asbestos cement water pipe. Enough to circle the globe sixteen times. Buried beneath hundreds of North American cities.

Yet scientists and government officials can not agree on how serious this hazard actually is, or even on what levels are acceptable. "We believe asbestos breathed is a definite carcinogen", says Dave Ryan, a press officer for the Environmental Protection Agency, "but as far as asbestos in water, the jury is still out".

The people of Woodstock NY know the worry first hand. In late 1985, so much asbestos was in the tap water that it clogged the town's pipes. Health officials warned citizens not to drink the water, to limit showers and to keep asbestos contaminated water out of humidifiers.

Tara Roberts, a thirty one year old business woman and mother, is the leader of the citizen's group Asbestos Free Woodstock. When she first heard Woodstock's health warning, she thought of her one year old daughter, who had had a cold. On her pediatricians advice she'd covered the crib and put a vaporizer beside it.

"I realized that the vaporizer was probably putting asbestos into the air she breathed," Robers grimly recalls. "I was horrified." For over a year, she has hauled gallons of clean water home, taken dirty clothes to a laundromat that uses well water and showered at the houses of friends with safe water.

Roberts states the 1980s message from the famous town of Woodstock: "Any community with asbestos cement pipe either has a problem or will soon have one."

In the past decade, asbestos contamination in drinking water has been discovered in communities throughout North America. In 1982, Department of Health and Human Services survey of 538 US cities showed sixty five percent of them had some asbestos in their water. Almost nine percent had levels that health experts say should have signaled concern.

In Connecticut, a state that banned installing new asbestos pipes seven years ago, 900 miles of asbestos laden pipe is still in the ground, supplying drinking water for over 600,000 people. The Detroit News informed 4 million water drinkers that 1100 miles of the pipe that lay beneath them showed more than 3 million fibers in a quart of tap water.

Asbestos cement water pipes may be anywhere in North American, from Winnipeg Canada to Texas, and, depending on its condition may cause people to swallow from a few hundred to hundreds of millions of fibers every day.

Dr. Philip Landrigan is the director of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "Houses built between 1950 and 1980, when asbestos cement pipe was in vogue have a good chance of using water from these pipes, but on one is certain as developers records are imperfect and good data is incomplete."

Unfortunately all too little is being done. Water utilities typically deny any risk for fear of liability. Occasionally the utilities even deny they used asbestos cement pipe. Two decades ago, asbestos cement pipe producers, including former industry giant Johns-Manville, attempted to fix the problem. With Food and Drug Administration approval, they sprayed a vinyl liner inside asbestos pipe and subsequently sold miles of treated pipe throughout New England. A few years ago, tetrachloroethylene, a chemical known to produce cancer in test animals was found to be leaching from the vinyl lining into the water. By 1980 when Manville finally took its vinyl lined asbestos pipe off the market, 1000 miles were buried in New England and New York.

Asbestos cement pipe producers paid for reports that advised water utilities to treat highly acidic water flowing through their pipes. Acidic water can cause the cement to disintegrate, which can result in the release of asbestos fibers.

On almost all fronts denial of the asbestos hazard in tap water seems to run deep. In ostrich like fashion city officials seem to be pretending that because they can't see the asbestos fibers in the water, little need be done. Winnipeg, a prairie city of over 600,00 is a case in point.

Sixteen years ago, Dr. Francis Konopasek, a physics professor at the University of Manitoba studying asbestos levels in wine and beer wondered if the deadly mineral might be making its way into Winnipeg's drinking water. Upon inquiring he was told, incorrectly, that asbestos pipe was only used to carry sewage, not water. In 1979, a Canadian government report showed that Winnipeg's drinking water was indeed tainted by asbestos. The city had almost 400 miles of asbestos cement pipe in the ground for nearly half a century. Over the next few years Winnipeg tested asbestos levels in its drinking water. In 1983, the year before sampling was stopped, a quart of Winnipeg drinking water contained 12 million fibers

In the winter of 1986, facing public outcry, the city finally banned further installation of asbestos cement water pipe. But it also brought in Joseph Cotruvo, director of criteria and standards in the EPA's office who gave a different view of the risk. "A multi million dollar study found the weight of evidence is slight that ingested asbestos causes cancer". Not surprisingly, environmentalists were unconvinced.

Unfortunately industry and government officials have been able to hide behind the fact that no adequate studies exist to measure the debilitating effects of drinking asbestos contaminated water. Dr. Irving Selikoff, the world's leading expert on asbestos related disease says that there are sound scientific reasons to suspect a cancer risk from asbestos in drinking water.

In November of 1985 the EPA proposed a nationwide standard for asbestos in drinking water. It stated that consumer protection was needed only when more than 7 million fibers per quart were found, and only when those fibers were long, which means longer than ten microns. In other words the EPA was assuring everyone that hundreds of millions of fibers shorter than ten microns were dandy to swallow!

To get to that dubious position the EPA shunted aside its own 1980 estimate of risk, as well as the advice of its own science advisory board and the opinion of the National Research Council. Instead it turned to a single animal study showing that asbestos Feb. in pellet form to rats was barely carcinogenic.

The author of that study, Ernest McConnell of the National Toxicology Program has acknowledged his surprise. "We would never regulate fibers longer than ten microns, based on my asbestos findings".

According to Mount Sinai's Dr. Landrigan, the EPA is misguided in its attempt to pretend that the short fibers are benign. Furthermore, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a group of scientists and lawyers with a strong track record in fighting for clean water supplies, charges that the EPA is allowing a risk 10,000 times greater than is prudent.

Also in November 1985, the EPA officially conceded that humidifiers could add to the hazard posed by asbestos contaminated water.

In drinking water the cancer risk seems to depend on the amount of asbestos swallowed. When you take a little asbestos and send it out to other parts of the body no one site is going to have very much, therefore the risk theoretically should be low. Asbestos has however, one very dangerous quality, as it accumulates in the body; the microscopic fibers lodged in tissues can remain like little time bombs and cause cancer years later. Since asbestos exposure is cumulative, young people are in particular need of protection. "Adults have three or four decades to develop cancer after exposure", says Dr. Landrigan. "The kids have six or seven. this means that a smaller dose of a carcinogen is as dangerous to the kids as a larger dose of it is to adults".

Controlling asbestos so that standards are met is critical. In Woodstock, pipes crumbled so badly that the proposed standard was exceeded. In one 1985 sample, 300 million fibers of every length were found per quart.

As thousands of other North Americans become suspicious of what level of asbestos may be in their drinking water, the big question is how to take preventive measures. At the very least, water districts should be required by law to tell consumers what type of pipe transports their precious commodity and before major problems erupt they should be required to test their water. If necessary districts should be required by law to quickly remove the pipe, just as schools have been required to remove asbestos pipe and insulation/tiles. Failure to do so dooms millions of people to become test animals in a massive biological experiment involving a known carcinogen.

: Barbara Robson was a reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press in Canada when this investigative report was first written and published in U.S February 1987

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pen Meets Paper February 15'10

Opinion by Helge Nome
The saga of Bill 50 continues. This bill, which has now become a law created by our elected representatives in the Alberta Legislature, including MLA Ty Lund in the Rocky constituency, effectively bypasses the technical skills of the Alberta Utilities Commission, and puts a $15 billion government spending decision in the hands of politicians with direct links to Alberta’s energy industry, based on advice from people with a vested interest in seeing the project go ahead as soon as possible. Major electricity transmission lines are planned for construction across Alberta, ostensibly for the benefit of Albertans in order to avoid electricity blackouts.
However, electricity industry insiders are challenging this assertion, saying that local electricity generation, close to major population centers, could easily pick up the extra load on the system in the future. The argument is that the proposed transmission lines are really there to be used for electricity exports to the United States.
Now, this is where it gets interesting: Alberta’s electricity consumers will be required to pay for the new transmission lines by way of a surcharge on their electricity bills while the power companies get to use the new energy highway to export their energy to the US. By all accounts a freebee for them at our expense.
To sum it up: We are being had. Our politicians have cozied up with major energy companies at our expense. They are privatizing profits and socializing debt.

But the problem runs deeper than that. It applies equally to the financial world which is the epicenter of political power. Over the last number of years money has been enticed into the speculative economy, away from the productive economy, on the promise of quick gains. The result is now facing us starkly: A shortage of money and credit in the productive economy, with industry and commerce slowing down and shedding jobs.
That was exactly what happened after the stock market crash in 1929 and for the very same reasons: Highly leveraged debt created by speculative activities in the financial world. Then the straw house came tumbling down, bringing with it the Great Depression. Our politicians on the federal level have progressively facilitated these speculative activities in our financial system, enabling the migration of money from the commercial banking system, that has served us well, into the hands of financial manipulators working for so called “investment banks”.
William Aberhart and his incoming Social Credit Government in Alberta inherited a bankrupt province in 1935 and he and his team did the best they could to salvage the pieces and rebuild the province. This work has largely been forgotten by the present generation of Albertans.
With conditions now closely resembling those of the early thirties, it is time to take another look at Social Credit and see what it has to offer Albertans.
To that end, a public discussion forum will be hosted by Albertans for Social Credit at 7pm in the Elks’ Hall in Leslieville on Thursday, February 25, to look at options for real change in Alberta. The setting will be informal with a free exchange of views encouraged. Refreshments will be provided. A blog has been created here