Friday, 18 April 2014

The Little Sign

I was driving into Prince Albert yesterday to a Forest Management Planning meeting with Weyerhaeuser when I came across this little sign near Debden while stopped at a stop sign. I was struck by the irony of the situation.

I've worked a lot with forest companies and the Forest Service over the last few years on forest plan development as well as the provincial standards that guide that work. As part of these plans and standards, forest companies are required to engage local communities and consult with First Nations treaty rights holders prior to any new activities taking place on the ground. The oil and gas sector, on the other hand, only needs to stick a little sign in the ground to make sure the drilling crew doesn't get lost on their way to the site. So long as their activities fall under the umbrella of 'exploration', they are not required to do an Environmental Impact Assessment or any engagement and consultation with local communities. In Saskatchewan, a project on private land like the one in the photo is only required to do an Environmental Review, which is simply a checklist full of yes or no questions that the company fills in themselves and is then reviewed by Lands Branch. In most cases the work does not need to wait for the Lands Branch review to be complete before starting. Public engagement and First Nations consultation is not part of this review. In some cases, up to 80% of the infrastructure required to carry out the eventual project is constructed during this 'exploration' stage, meaning most of the set up of their sites is not subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment, consultation or public review. Personally, I don't think this is right.

But it caused me to appreciate the work of the forest companies. Their activities are more visible than other sectors. We see the cuts. Their footprint appears large. And because of that, and the heat they sometimes take for it, they have a government imposed set of requirements for planning and consultation that the oil/gas and mining sectors don't have. Look at the bigger picture, where the environmental risks are greater and what is really at stake, and it is really too bad that governments don't require the same level of planning, engagement and disclosure from the oil/gas and mining sectors that they require of the foresters. Yes, forestry is visible and we don't like to see it while we're sitting in our boats while out fishing. And when done poorly, it can do a lot of damage to habitat, etc. But when it comes to punching holes through our drinking water aquifers and other things like that, the margins for error are very small and the implications of any mistakes are great. Which makes the reality that the oil and gas companies are not required to disclose any part of the nature of their plans to local communities and citizens prior to the exploration stage very troubling. And wrong.

I'm not opposed to oil and gas development in principle. It's great for the economy and things like that. I get it. However, I am suggesting that if the forest companies are required to and are able to do these things, why can't the oil and gas companies be required to do it too? Through the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, companies like Weyerhaeuser and groups like CPAWS have proven that by working together, communities can have the economic benefits of the resources in the area while also being responsible stewards of the land. However, without engagement and consultation, this balance will be very difficult to achieve.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Miley Cyrus, Tyler Bozak and the Real Reason the Leafs Missed the Playoffs...Again!

I've been a Leaf fan for as long as I can remember. And it sucks sometimes.

Borje Salming
But we've had some great players that I remain a fan of to this day. My favorite still is Borje Salming, the trailblazer that proved Swedes are more than tough enough to play in the NHL. A very close second is Saskatchewan farm boy Wendel Clark. Rounding out my top 5 all-time are Doug Gilmour (no matter who your team is, you can't not like Dougie), Lanny Mcdonald (the moustache) and Darryl Sittler (NHL record 10 points in one game). These 5 players represent the only two brief periods of time since that last Cup win in 1967 that the Leaf's were legitimate contenders.

However, despite the futility of today's version of the team, there is one current Leaf that was looking like he was about to crack my top 5 fave Leafs of all time - Regina native Tyler Bozak. But he blew it! Here's how...

Now, don't get me wrong. I still think Bozie is arguably the most under-appreciated forward in the NHL. After all, he centered a line that, for a large part of the season was one of the top 3 forward lines in the league. Yet people still doubt his abilities as a legitimate 1st line center. He kills penalties and has been the Leaf's top faceoff guy for the last 2 years. In fact, had he not missed that ill-fated Game 7 vs. Boston in last year's playoffs it is probably very safe to assume that the Leaf's would not have blown that huge lead and lost the series, simply because he would have had a chance to win a faceoff, and even if he didn't, his defensive presence may have been just enough to get the puck cleared out of the zone that one extra time.

Tyler Bozak
Nope, Tyler is not in my bad books because of anything he does on the ice. Rather, it is due to one very disturbing off-ice decision that is without a doubt the cause of the Leaf's tanking down the stretch and losing almost every game since the Olympic break!

Between the lines of this recent article from Sportsnet, you will clearly see how Tyler Bozak cost the Leafs the season. He was given the important task of choosing the Leaf's victory song. Now, thanks to him, anytime the Leafs win a game their reward is that they get to listen to "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus! I mean, that is not incentive for a hockey player to go out and win a hockey game!

Picture it. You're a professional hockey player. You've just won a huge game. You're feeling pretty good about yourself. You're big and strong. You believe this is the team that can go all the way. You're in the zone! High fives, shouting, spitting and scratching! And then...BAM!!

It's our party we can do what we want
It's our party we can say what we want
It's our party we can love who we want
We can kiss who we want
We can sing what we want
Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere
Hands in the air like we don't care
'Cause we came to have so much fun now
Bet somebody here might get some now

Good feeling gone...

His co-DJ, defenceman Cody Franson could have and should have stopped him. He even admitted that he didn't like the song himself. However, much like Franson's performance on the ice this year, he simply let the speedy forward get by him rather than do what was obviously necessary for the good of the team and take Bozak out before he could add the song to the team playlist!   

Tyler Bozak, you're a really good hockey player. And a Saskatchewan boy. I like you a lot! But, next year, if you are still picking the songs, remember this; Hockey players want to win games. And when they win, they want Rock n' Roll! In fact, why even look outside your own province of Saskatchewan for your inspiration! Might I simply suggest "Feeling Good" by the Sheepdogs?

Feelin' Good oh like you know I should
Got the pressure beat just like you know I would
Feelin' good oh like you know I should
Got the pressure beat
Now those are victory lyrics! 

On the other hand, given the obvious negative effect Miley's music had in inspiring this team to victory, whoever next year's coach is (doubting very much that Randy Carlyle will still be around) could consider incorporating some Miley style twerking into the grueling punishment regime that the team will endure should they continue to stink up the arenas!

Whatever it takes! We want the Stanley Cup! Go Leafs Go!

Now, back to work...

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Redneck Home Remedies...A True Story

I witnessed a conversation on Facebook today about the best home remedies for removing a wart from a young lad's foot. There were a lot of interesting suggestions. It was suggested that taping a banana peel over the wart, followed by changing the peel daily for two weeks would work. Nail polish and apple cider vinegar were popular suggestions. Or duct tape. It was even suggested to alternate a few of these treatments for two weeks along with pumice treatments in between. It all seemed like a lot of work to me.

So I suggested dehorning paste.

What is dehorning paste, you ask? It's a paste us ranchers use on calves to stop horns from growing. It basically burns the horn away. And why would I suggest such a thing for warts? Well, here's the story.

As a kid growing up on the Ranch in Central Saskatchewan, a lot of things were done differently. Of course we didn't know how different it was at the time. For instance, we didn't have a post office. Our neighbor, Norman, had some sort of contract to pick up everyone's mail in Debden. We would then all just pick up our mail at his place, stay a while and have a coffee, etc. And it was this same neighbor that taught me about dehorning paste for warts.

My dad and I went over to get the mail one morning. Norman came out to the mail boxes to meet us. He was wincing. He had just applied dehorning paste to a wart on his finger. The wart was gone, which is the main goal of wart removal, so obviously we embraced this concept immediately.

Now the first thing you need to know about using dehorning paste on warts is that it states clearly on the bottle to avoid any contact with skin. Ignore this. Following this rule could seriously hamper effective wart removal. The second thing you need to know is to only leave the paste on for 30 seconds to a minute. That part is easy, because it burns so bad that's about all you can last. And that's it. Two simple steps and your wart is gone forever - guaranteed.

But just like all technologies, something even better usually comes along.

In my late teens and early 20's, as our level of sophistication on the Ranch increased, we added Artificial Insemination to our cattle breeding program. This meant that we now owned our very own liquid nitrogen tank. I saw a doctor one time in Shellbrook and he was using liquid nitrogen directly from a tank that looked just like mine to remove warts. I said to him, "Hey, I could do that!" He said "I bet you could!"

All told, I'm guessing I removed warts off the hands and feet of at least a dozen of my farming neighbors. How it worked was a neighbor would approach me and very quietly say something like "I hear you can get rid of a wart." to which I would reply "Oh ya, no problem...let's go to the barn". A Q-Tip alone isn't long enough to get down into the tank to the liquid nitrogen, so I would tape the Q-Tip to a stick. A couple seconds in the nitrogen and then I would pull it up and apply it directly to the wart, count to 30 and done!

So, needless to say, I am skeptical when it comes to 2 week long home remedies for wart removal. First off, unlike the redneck methods I have described, these other remedies aren't even guaranteed to work. Plus you have to also spend the two weeks making sure the wart doesn't get picked at, leading to more warts.

The only downside you might attribute to our more 'veterinary' wart treatments is that they could leave a small physical scar. But when compared to the risks associated with asking a young boy to walk around with a banana duct taped to his foot for two weeks, while possibly wearing nail polish and getting pumiced...I say bring on the dehorning paste!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

You Can't Disguise Racism

Phrases like "I'm not racist, but..." are being thrown around a lot lately. And it's bugging me.

As Idle No More has gained momentum as a movement, like many others I have been taking in the various opinions and have developed some of my own. But, as people's emotions have started to run higher, there has also been a very sad revelation - one that I am having trouble coming to terms with as a Canadian in one of the most free and accepting places in the world. I am learning that racism is still very alive and well in my country and unfortunately, in my local community. The line between respectful disagreement and racism is pretty easy to identify. So why are so many people choosing to say or write things that clearly cross the line into racism these days?

Here's a hint to anyone who thinks it is possible in any way to disguise racism as respectful disagreement.

If a person feels they need to first qualify their comment or opinion with a phrase such as "I'm not racist, but...", guess what; it is probably a racist comment. And if the person says it anyway, that person is carrying out a racist action. The fact is that if a person truly is not racist, then that person would refrain from making a statement that could be interpreted as racism. It really is that simple.
Photo courtesy of Sturgeon River Plains Bison Stewards
Of course, this is only one example of how racism is being expressed in these discussions. My point is that racism should have no place in these discussions, because racism should have no place in our society. 

As we go through the next months or even years that it may take to repair the relationship between the Crown and First Nations, we will all need to pull in the same direction. The problems run deep and cannot be attributed to just one issue or just one group of people. We all share some blame and thus we all share the responsibility to make this relationship stronger and to get both parties on track in carrying out the treaties that were signed on behalf of all of us years ago.

And the simple action of each of us being respectful in what we do, say and write, including and especially when we don't agree with each other, will go a long way in making a very difficult job a lot easier.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

CPAWS, the Hill and a Cowboy

This is a rewrite of my very first CPAWS blog.

I’m what you would call somewhat of an “awkward conservationist.

Last October, I’m sitting in a beautiful restaurant at the Mill in Wakefield, Quebec with some of my CPAWS friends from across the country. We’re having a great supper and the room is buzzing with excitement, as we are all heading to Parliament in a couple days for some meetings with MP’s and Senators from all of the Parties represented in the House. All told, there will be a few dozen of us meeting with about 80 of them, so needless to say, we were getting pretty pumped! The food was wonderful and the mood was light and happy.

Now, I’m sure our National Executive Director wasn’t intentionally planning to dampen the mood, but this is kind of where the trouble started. Eric sits down beside me and says “So, just what are you planning on wearing to Parliament?”

Silence…and remember that “awkward” thing I mentioned earlier?

Now just take a glance at my profile photo. This is how I dress. For weddings, funerals, brandings, meetings, at the beach, riding my horses…that’s me. My friends have now all turned their chairs to engage in some fake conversations at the other end of the table. “Well,” I respond, “I’m probably going to wear something like this,” pointing at my current attire.

More awkward silence…

“You know”, he says, “you have a couple meetings in the Government Lobby, and no one has ever gone into the Government Lobby unless they were wearing a suit and tie… and for sure no jeans!”
So apparently now we’ve got a problem. I didn’t bring a suit to Wakefield. This is because I don’t actually own a suit. I rented one for my wedding back in the day. I guess I never really thought I would need one again. I sure don’t want to disrespect the House and its traditions! Heck, we are lucky to live in a great democracy and to have this chance to talk to our decision makers, so I’m not about to abuse this privilege.

At this point CPAWS now has two people on full “Find Gord A Suit” detail. Jill and Emily went hard on this thing. There were calls to a suit store of some sort, but they only rented out tuxedos (like the one at my wedding), so that was a bit overboard. We even thought about maybe a fringed leather jacket that I had along and trying to pass it all off as “traditional dress”, but decided that was just plain dishonest.

Then along came Nick from Wakefield, driving up in some kind of army surplus thing. Like me, he wore a hat. He was a little bigger framed than me, but it looked close. Plus, I’m thinking the style might be tolerable, given his unique entrance into the picture. Sure enough, Nick had something that was “close enough” to ensure I would not get the boot from the Lobby.

There were a few half-baked “compliments” on my attire that morning over breakfast. I didn’t buy them at all, but I’m sure they were meant in good humour. To my delight, I learned that I would be allowed to wear my hat! Good thing too, as another colleague had already vowed to “strip naked” should I be asked to leave or remove my hat. When I asked Eric how this made him feel, he swallowed the lump in his throat and quietly replied “Nervous!”

So now we’re in Parliament! I’ve made my way safely past several levels of security (a feat for sure when you think about the combination of removing your belt from pants that are slightly too large and having to hold out your arms for a metal detector) and am now waiting with my colleagues Ray and Kjelti to be called into our first meeting, with an MP on House Duty. We’re all set to talk about the Federal Caribou Recovery Strategy…pumped and ready to go.

Then right in front of us walks a handsome young fellow named Trudeau…in jeans…