08.07.2012 06:13 AM

Not in today’s Sun: this column on politics and religion

[Not sure where it is. In the meantime, here’s what I filed.]

“Where knowledge ends,” British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once opined, “religion begins.”

So what do we know about the religions of Prime Ministers?

Pierre Trudeau was a devout Roman Catholic, and remained so to his dying day.  John Turner was (and is) deeply committed to Catholicism, and considered the priesthood in his youth.  Paul Martin and Jean Chretien are both Catholics, and both observe the sacraments – although those of us who worked for him recall Chretien occasionally delighting in tweaking the bishops.

The Conservative PMs were religious, too, but not by much.  Joe Clark was a faithful Catholic, whilst comparatively progressive on social issues like abortion and gay rights.  Similarly, Brian Mulroney – who was a Roman Catholic, and educated at Catholic schools – didn’t pay much heed to the clergy on issues as diverse as abortion or free trade, and didn’t pay a price for it.

Lately, much as been written about Stephen Harper’s faith, although it’s difficult to know why. Much of what has been written about Harper’s religious conviction strikes me as uniformed, unfair, or both.

It is unfair, in the main, because everyone’s personal religious views are just that – personal.  Until a politician states that religion will guide his or her decision-making – as Stockwell Day foolishly did in 2000, and as his error-prone B.C. friend Christy Clark did just this week on a Christian television program – it is nobody else’s business.

There is no evidence, none, that Harper favours a comingling of Church and State.  In fact, the reverse is true: he recently and mercilessly put down a legislative attempt by one of his own backbenchers to reopen the abortion debate.  And, apart from periodically requesting in speeches that God bless Canada, he doesn’t seem like much of a religious fanatic, at all.

For example: I have it on very good authority that Harper and his charming wife were not even married in a church.  Nor do the Harpers in any way share the religious fervour of many of their fellow Conservatives, even though Harper himself ostensibly belongs to a Calgary evangelical church.  He is infrequently seen there.

So why, then, did the Globe and Mail’s Lawrence Martin recently devote an entire column to Harper’s evangelical faith, and its connection to Conservative government policy?  The answer remains elusive.  On the one hand, Martin describes the Prime Minister as a “clear-headed rationalist.”  Then, on the hand, he “wonders” about Harper’s “impulses.”

An offended National Post’s Charles Lewis then got in on the act, and expressed chagrin that Martin would write about such a subject, and then proceeded to write about it himself.  Never missing an opportunity to exaggerate a non-existent threat, the Post likened Martin’s single column to – wait for it – “an Inquisition.”  Just, wow.

Then, back at the Globe, a religious broadcaster weighed in, claiming that Harper’s religion was being “probed” (by, er, just Lawrence Martin) and “denominational insiders” (that’s a quote) are “tight-lipped” on the Prime Ministerial faith.  Could that be because they, you know, don’t know?

If so, that’s as it should be.  If Stephen Harper regards his religion as his own business, the rest of us should mind our own. 

(In an possibly unrelated mater, has anyone else noticed that it is Summer, and opinion writers are looking for things to have opinions about?)


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    Paul McKeever says:

    Perhaps “mater” threw them off? 😉

    I disagree with your conclusion. A person’s religion is not some insignificant little jot in a notebook they keep in the attic. It is their method of deciding what they should and should not do in any given situation: it is their code of good and evil. Were someone to deny that they would make decisions contrary to their religious (or otherwise ethical) beliefs, all they are really doing is admitting either (a) that they are committed to a code of ethics that they believe is wrong (which calls the person’s judgment and integrity into question), or that (b) they are willing to do what they believe to be wrong/evil.

    Those are the choices: 1. A person follows his code of ethics, 2. A person lacks judgment and integrity, or 3. A person is prepared to do evil things.

    To say: “he keeps his religion private, so we shouldn’t inquire into his religious beliefs” is just to say “The governed should have no knowledge of the Prime Minister’s ideas about what he ought and ought not to do with the power with which he has been entrusted, no knowledge of any lack of judgment or integrity, and no knowledge of any willingness to do evil.

    There are some pretty bizarre religious beliefs out there. Before I give them the power to point a gun at me, put me in a prison, or take my property, I want to know what they are.

    Were the decision making left to a computer, I’d want to know how it was programmed. The robot currently in charge deserves no less scrutiny. The same goes for anyone else seeking the post.


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      Paul McKeever says:

      Argh….I should never write so early in the morning. Please regard “Were someone to deny” as “Were someone to say”.

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      Np says:

      I think the manner in which a person drives a car is far more important than the car itself. Who do you think is more dangerous: a reckless driver in an Escape or a cautious and reserved driver in a Hummer? A politician’s religious beliefs are irrelevant and here’s why: Before a PM becomes PM, he/she is often a cabinet minister, opposition leader, shadow cabinet minister, an MP, and before that, a private citizen. There is a panoply of recorded actions and decisions that any concerned citizen can consult to see how any politician has voted in the past. If those decisions are not congruent with your own, it is well within your right not to vote for them. There are indeed some pretty bizarre religious beliefs out there; some of which are held by our elected officials. However, unless and until those wacky beliefs begin to affect a leader’s decision making, they are not your concern.

      “Were someone to say that they would make decisions contrary to their religious (or otherwise ethical) beliefs, all they are really doing is admitting either (a) that they are committed to a code of ethics that they believe is wrong (which calls the person’s judgment and integrity into question), or that (b) they are willing to do what they believe to be wrong/evil.”

      This statement is very obtuse and one dimensional; and your rigid list of choices proceeding it is not very accurate either. My problem with your reasoning is that it does account for the internal struggles that many religious people face every day. It smacks of atheist arrogance (which paints all religious people as either blind drones, ignorant fools or corrupt power hungry evil doers; a statement true of any politician, by the way) and it makes me ashamed to call myself an atheist. Kinsella, who would not relieve himself on the PM if he were on fire, has cited several examples of “this robot” not being the blind religious ideologue everyone believes/wants him to be.

      You want to know what an elected official believes, look to his/her voting record and make a decision based on that. You don’t have a right to rummage through his/her beliefs and pass judgment.

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        Paul McKeever says:

        I can’t agree with you Np. We elect people for a four year term (now that we have set election dates). Once we elect them, they’re pretty much beyond our control for four years. We deserve to know the *principles* upon which a person makes decisions (if any…alternatively, to know that the person does not make principled decisions), so that we can predict, to some extent, what will happen in situations that have not yet arisen during the candidate’s political career (if any).

        Let’s not sugar coat it. Let’s use a very real and timely example. If there is a fellow running for office who is faithful to a religious belief that the only law man should follow is the law of God or Allah – i.e., theocracy, such as Sharia…that is a belief that many Canadians hold, as one could easily prove by reading the history of the “supremacy of God” fiasco that corrupted the wording of our constitution for electoral reasons – I think that it would be negligent of me not to inquire – before voting for him – as to whether or not such a person will use his political power to eliminate laws inconsistent with his god’s law, or to use it to make laws consistent with his god’s law. Canada’s constitution provides for individual freedom that many theocrats strenuously oppose in some cases. Should I not know that a potential PM is religiously and faithfully opposed, say, to pornography, or abortion, or evolution, especially given that he has the power to appoint the people who decide when to apply s. 1 of the Charter (so as to reduce my individual freedom)?

        You refer to internal struggles faced by some religious people. I don’t think that being ignorant, or confused, or conflicted is the Get Out of Scrutiny Free card that you imply it is. If a person is conflicted about what is good and what is evil, that too is something I want to know. If the person is clear headed and has a great deal of integrity about his ethics, that too is something I want to know. We’re talking about someone with the power to kill, imprison, or expropriate. We’re not electing a president of the knitting club. If someone seeking so much power is suffering internal questions or struggles about right and wrong, they should speak to their religious leader, or to a psychiatrist, before running for office and inflicting their uncertainties upon everyone else in the form of ill-conceived laws and poorly considered decisions.

        As for “arrogance”: in my experience, that’s a word used primarily by radical skeptics seeking to obviate all wrongdoing by claiming that nobody can be certain about anything; that man lacks the capacity to know reality/truth. And, in my experience, far to many self-styled atheists are radical skeptics (and, typically, nihilists). If someone running for Big Gun believes that nothing’s certain – which implies that one cannot be certain about the nature of good and evil – that too is something the voter should know. In my view, anyone who believes he is incapable of certainty IS. And that, in my view, makes for a foolish choice for PM.

        As with the stock market, so with politicians: past performance is no predictor of future performance. Empiricism is not adequate for the task of competent voting. It is, in fact, a cop-out.

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          Np says:

          Thank you for taking the time to respond. You make a good point when you say that a person running who wants to make our country subject to Sharia Law should be asked to divulge his beliefs. However, I would argue that in such an extreme case, would this man’s campaign not fully flush out his beliefs and cost him votes and deny him a seat?

          You want to know what a person believes to be right and wrong. I could not agree more. And that is the point of a campaign, is it not? Bringing a person’s religion into the discussion seems unnecessary and pointless. If a person brings up their faith in a campaign on their own, I have to admit, it does make me a bit skeptical about their decision making abilities. However, I would not demand to know their faith.

          My point is this: your argument seems to say that religious people are either blind followers of their faith or morally bankrupt people who can’t follow any moral code with no apparent middle ground. I take issue with that. Being religious doesn’t mean you are automatically a radical or a fool. You can turn the other cheek without being opposed to gay marriage.

          Finally, I do believe in objective truth. Though, I also firmly believe that list of things is very small. When dealing with things of a political nature, especially politicians, one can’t be certain about much. And yes, I believe that while certain things are universally good and universally evil, I do believe the line between the two is a moving target.

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      kenn2 says:

      I disagree. The degree to which the dogma and policies of a given religion influence and underscore a given person depends on the person. Not all Catholics are rabid pro-lifers, not all evangelicals want to hasten the rapture, not all Muslims want to destroy the infidels. (please pardon the religious hyperbole, folks, I’m trying to highlight some of the ridiculous assumptions people make that are often attached to religious affiliation)

      Most successful people have a personal code that is a combination of their upbringing, and their own reflection and experience. Rabid dogmatics are seldom successful. There are good agnostics and evil holy men. Knowing someone’s religious affiliation is far less important than watching them in action.

      I’m not a Harper fan, but I agree with Warren K that he’s not a religious nutbar, and his religion doesn’t dominate his policy. To me it seems the opposite; he will sometimes float opinions that he thinks will appeal to others’ religious/cultural biases.

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    Paul says:


    Good on you to call out bullshit on Martin – Canadians have a sense of fairness and the hypocrisy of people like Martin does more harm than good (if the goal is kicking Harper out).

    Will Martin write an article taking Justin to task on the official RC position about birth control and abortion? I think not.

    If the Liberals are to win back the ethnic vote, ripping Harper’s personal religion is wrong-headed thinking since many of these voters are Muslim, Sikh, Jew, Buddhist, etc.

    If the Prime Minister is not free to practice personal religious views, who is? Is Canada really a land of Freedom? Perhaps Martin wants to send us back to the dark ages…..

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      Ted B says:

      What Liberal is “ripping Harper’s personal religion”?

      I’m not aware of any in this situation.

      And I’m not aware of any elected/candidate ripping into any Conservative’s religion the way someone like, say, Dean Del Mastro has (suggesting a Catholic high school should not have let Trudeau speak about volunteering because he wasn’t a good Catholic).

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    Ted B says:

    The article is online here, by the way.

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    Anne Peterson says:

    Much of Harper government policy on oil and the environment doesn’t seem that rational to me. If there is any chance a leader’s religion might be influencing important policy the citizens of a country should know that. Or be aware that it might be happening. I think those running for high office should be open about everything in their lives. If an evangelical belief could cause one to ignore climate change it needs to be known.

    It’s like Vic toews and HIS private life. Canadians need to know when high office holders are hypocrits. Sorry, but I think that’s one price of gaining high office.

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      que sera sera says:

      When you consider the Public Safety Minister is the head of the RCMP, and that the RCMP is swamped with lawsuits from ex-female members alleging widespread sexual harassment, sexual assaults & gender discrimination of female subordinates, it’s pretty difficult to believe that the institutionalized root of the problem can be fairly addressed and remediated when the Public Safety Minister himself has a sordid personal history with women that apparently includes screwing his teenage female subordinate.

      I cannot help but wonder why someone with that troubled personal history is not only still a Minister of the Crown but also still the Public Safety Minister representing an obviously troubled RCMP. I cannot help but wonder if the good old boys club doesn’t see anything wrong – even in 2012 – with treating women with the kind of casually spectacular contempt, disrespect & misogyny that often culminates in class action sexual harassment lawsuits.

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    Anne Peterson says:

    In the Tyee is another article about Mr. Harper and his faith by a journalist I respect. None of the gentlemen you mentioned in the first part of your article hid anything about their beliefs, nor would they have, if asked. Does Mr. Harper hide things?

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    Bruce says:

    Keep your religion to yourselves. It won’t under any circumstances, make you any better than any atheist or agnostic, regardless of what believers think. As for Mr. Martin, good on him, ‘conservatives’ spend all the time setting the course of discussion. The last thing anyone needs is for more American reglious foolishness to steep north.

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    Ted H says:

    I am a Christian and proud to say so, it is in my view, simply reality. However, I am suspicious of any politician who wears his/her religion on their sleeve simply to get, in particular, the right wing Christian vote. George W. Bush was always touted as God’s man by many conservative Americans, but he was seldom in church while president as opposed to Bill Clinton who attended his church in Washington faithfully and Hillary was a Sunday School teacher. The right wingers who question Barack Obama’s religious beliefs can often be found arranging their second divorce and third marriage or playing footsie with other men in the airport toilet stalls. So called Christians, like Dean Del Mastro referenced above who questioned Justin Trudeau’s religious credibility are exactly like the Pharisees in the New Testament. What did Jesus say about same sex relationships, nothing, about abortion, nothing, about mercy, plenty, about the Pharisees, plenty, in fact more than anything else he criticised the religious hypocrites of the day, so much so that they killed him. Phariseeism is alive and well among the right wing Christians of our day.

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    Ted H says:

    Oh one more thing, with regard to the upcoming Republican Convention, the sex trade estimates that Republican candidates average $150 each spent on prostitutes, Democratic candidates, between $50 to $80. The girls and boys are gearing up for some business in Tampa.

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      Tim Sullivan says:

      Are Republicans more repressed?

      It has been less expensive for them with Congressional pages and in men’s rooms at airports, however.

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    Attack! says:

    This was very unfair to Lawrence Martin by nearly all concerned.

    He was doing the same thing that *you* are, WK:

    responding to someone else’s column (the one by Andrew Nikiforuk, in the Tyee, months earlier http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2012/03/26/Harper-Evangelical-Mission/ ), and especially on the responses *to* that column, which are what attracted his interest to it,

    on a topic of potentially important and largely unexamined interest (the degree of Harper’s religiosity),

    upon which he, like WK (and Elizabeth May, for that matter) quite fairly noted the evidence is rather equivocal or even very weak.

    And *Why* was he doing it?

    Well, as his latest column made clear, the same reason as many of the pundits responded to *him*: ‘cuz it’s the summer, he’s working on his golf game, he had to phone something in, and it was easier to just riff off someone else’s column and the fuss some were making about it. http://www.ipolitics.ca/2012/08/06/lawrence-martin-oh-my-gosh-the-theocons-are-in-a-tizzy/

    But for you commenters above: to think of Lawrence Martin as pro-Liberal as opposed to anti- abuse of power just shows your blind allegiance to the serial abuser, Harper. (conbots!)

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    Nic Coivert says:

    Why have Christian lobbyists on the hill become so powerful and profuse?

    I think Harper blurs religion and state, and he believes God is his accomplice.

    Lawrence Martin bears sage advice and what he has to say is more than just a smear campaign as the Conbots have it.

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      Nic Coivert says:

      uhm… bares sage advice

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    sinner at large says:

    as a non partisan re politics, completely lapsed catholic re religion .. aged but opinionated radical re The Environment .. my humble observation is that perhaps Mr Harper should investigate the useful aspects of any religion that could help curb his dangerous behavior. I could say the same for the entire loutpack pretending to be a legitimate Canadian cabinet.. and the surly lawyers, junior ministers, beaurocrats, party members, spokespersons, think-tankers, ‘volunteers’ and behind the scenes conservative thugs that have taken over Ottawalberta. I don’t care what religion they choose as long as its not the current one they seem to be following. A ‘religion’ with mantra-dogma that seems to condone lying incessantly, burying scientific reports, obstructing government and justice and evidence based science, secrecy instead of transparency, bluster, vote suppression and electoral ‘grooming, torture, ignoring the electorate’s wishes and needs, raping and poisoning the environment, breaking electoral promises, breaking any promise, military adventurism. startling hypocrisy and pompous omnipotent narcism as well. I can back up with examples, every one of those despicable & even criminal behavior traits.. as can any Canadian with a shred of intelligence, memory and the ability to read. Oliver, Kent, Ashfield, Baird, Moore, Clement, Fantino, Del Mastro, Kenney, Flaherty et al .. are you or any Canadian going to try to tell me these are honest & upstanding citizens ? They buried scientific reports about the downstream water from the tar sands.. Now why would that be ? ? They are doing nothing about the ever growing environmental bombshell that the leaking and leaching tailings ponds represent.. and they are collaborating and complicit with the Alberta government on covering up this matter. Now why would that be ?? Because the water is good enough to drink as Joe Oliver claims so preciously ? They’re all pissing on our legs and trying to tell us its raining.. and we’re arguing about whether their religion is their own business… ? I’ll ask again.. just what kind of religion condones a complete lack of morality, truth or responsible behavior..?

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      Nic Coivert says:


      Why ignore environmental warnings? Well, it is possible to be so blindly religious (isn’t faith blind anyway?) that you believe God will not let anything happen to his followers. The rest be damned.

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      billg says:

      No Anger Management courses in your area siner?
      I really like the one about “ignoring the electorates wishes and needs”…I obviously missed the Military Coup.

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        que sera sera says:

        Did you miss the previous guilty plea for electoral fraud? Did you miss the PM’s Parliamentary Secretary apparently being investigated by Elections Canada for voter fraud, forged documents, and illegal campaign contributions?

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    Brammer says:

    Did any of those other PM’s in your article set up an office of “religious freedom”? Were any of them so blatantly one sided on the Middle East?

    Some of Harper’s actions are definitely directed by religion, either his own or that of the voter-du-jour he is pandering to.

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      Ted B says:

      I took those actions to be more about politics than his personal faith. He has a hardcore constituency who will vote for him, organize for him, donate a ton of money to him, and he’s basically slammed the door on everything domestically important to them. So he throws them a few bones here and there – no funding for Planned Parenthood international, G20 maternal funding but not for abortion, Rights and Democracy debacle, an office of religious freedom, promises (but no action) to ban federal funding for immoral movies, cut funding to this group or that group, some high profile (but no power) promotion of groups like REAL Women (eg. they get to give out some of the Royal Jubilee awards).

      I don’t like any of that, but it is not really any different than funding progressive NGOs and political advocacy groups as has been done in the past. The fruits of electoral victory are keeping your supporters happy. But it isn’t the makings of a theocracy. If he was intent on doing that, he’d have been a lot more quiet or cagey on stuff like abortion and equal marriage.

      As for Israel, it may be directed by religious belief or not, but unlike everything else he’s done as PM, he’s been absolutely clear, upfront and transparent about this policy. You know what he is doing in Israel and where he stands so it frankly doesn’t matter what motivates him.

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        Tim Sullivan says:

        Harper should explain it instead of having you “take those actions to mean …” Personally, I fear a PM who is shy to disclose the deets of his rather unknown belief system and who at the same time disbands his science advisors, gags his scientists and bans the long form census.

        Eschewing science and evidence-based decisions without explaining what belief system one does accept is terribly disconcerting to me.

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      Robert Jago says:

      “definitely directed by religion”?

      Well done Kreskin. Is reading the PM’s mind the whole schtick, or can you bend spoons too?

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    Bil H says:

    I read both WK’s piece and the Martin piece.

    other than Harper’s policies appearing to be aligned to evangelical community, there’s really nothing else to support Martin’s theory. No mention that most right wing voters/politicians hold a near identical set of views, completely independent of their religious beliefs. When there’s examples of issues that don’t support Martin’s point, the implied defense, here and elsewhere, seems to be that Harper’s more concerned about his political hide and doesn’t have the voter support to pull off the full evangelical monty.

    but WK’s right. It’s garbage. it’s conspiracy theory light. no real evidence, or structure of factual support. Just “these things are similar, and when they’re not its always because of ‘x’ “.

    And WKs piece is why i visit this space on the web. He and many others can fault Harper for plenty, but our political system needs more examples of people coming out in support of political enemies, not less.

    i’d never mistake this kinda piece as actual ‘support’ for Harper, we all know which side of the fence WK lives on, but the principal of this piece is one we all need to practice more if we’re interested in higher quality leadership.

    the greatest political lie so often told is “my opponent would be so much worse for the country than i am, which excuses my behaviour to get or retain power.”

    We’d all be so much better off telling this lie alot less.

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    Greg from Calgary says:


    With this column you have gained 10 points on the “Greg from Calgary Respectometre.” I think you hit the nail on the head. Religion is a private matter unless you start to make religious convictions public policy.

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    Anne Peterson says:

    We don’t know if Harper goes to church every Sunday or not. We don’t know if he believes in the rapture or not, thus we don’t know if his beliefs affect his actions on climate change. We don’t know if he believes scientific data or discounts it or even if he believes in evolution. All of these beliefs could drastically affect the policies he espouses. We have every right to know if this is happening because we have every right to know how his policies will affect the world our children will be living in. We have a duty to know that. We had a right to know how the beliefs of the Catholic leaders we have had would affect their policies on same sex marriage or birth control. They were open about it. Mr. Harper is not open about anything. If he told us what he believes about evolution, scientific data and climate change and how those beliefs affect his policies we wouldn’t have to speculate, would we? That is if we could believe what he says.

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      billg says:

      Love the last line Anne….”that is if we could believe what he says”. So, you want to know more about his religious beliefs but you dont trust him to tell the truth about it. You on a Twister board right now? One of the greatest things about being Canadian is a, gulp, Liberal minded ideology that, unless I bring it up you really have no right to know what my religious beliefs are, and, what my sexual leanings are either. You dont belong in my bedroom or my Church. Unless of course this Liberal tradition was only meant for people you agree with politically.

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        que sera sera says:

        Harper has spent the better part of the last decade teaching Canadians not to trust him, or his government, to tell the truth. Don’t start playing coy now about their well deserved reputation for dishonesty.

        “You reap what you sow”

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          billg says:

          If he’s spent the better part of a decade teaching Canadians not to trust him why does the CPC seat count under Harper keep rising every election? Unless of course what your trying to say is that only the uneducated easily duped Canadians vote Conservative, which, we both know is what you were trying to say. This attitude from a very large percentage of LPC members has you at what…3rd place?
          “you reap what you sow”

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    Eric Weiss says:

    Religion is only an issue if it’s someone the Liberals hate.

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      smelter rat says:

      Liberals don’t “hate”. That an exclusively right wing thing.

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        don craig says:

        what a hateful thing to say.

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      Robert Jago says:

      Oh come now, everyone remembers the huge media feeding frenzy when Elizabeth May said she was on a mission from God. Or when the NDP punished a member for putting forth a pro-atheist motion, or when the NDP kicked a candidate off the ballot for being a Wiccan. Or the the slew of stories dominating the press today because of the PQ’s bigoted political ads showing a cross and equating that with being a real Quebecer.

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    Anne Peterson says:

    I don’t think it is really that simple. We keep out noses out of people’s sexual practices and leanings AS LONG AS they are not harming anyone else. But if they are harming someone we call the police. I am talking about religious beliefs that do harm to others. I know ignoring global warming is harming others. If you don’t believe me ask people in Tuvalu or on the deserts of Africa. Denial is doing harm. If that denial is caused by someone’s religious beliefs we need to know about it. Like your freedom stops at the end of my nose or when my grandchildren are in danger. And I believe they are.

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      billg says:

      I thought Global Warming was changed to Climate Change because it was getting hard to prove it was warming. Regardless, I have to ask, what the hell does anyone’s religion have to do with wether or not you belive the scientists who claim the earth is warming / cooling or the scientists who believe the sun is responsible for much of the earths weather patterns or, the scientists who believe that man do not and cannot alter the weather. Oh ya, it has nothing to do with religion. Its yet another tool to hit your political enemy with, but, in doing so you tarnish a Liberal concept.

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        que sera sera says:

        I suspect people who allow “theistic faith” to trump science on their “intelligently designed” corner of their 6000 year old Earth automatically disqualify themselves from drafting public legislation/policy affecting the rest of us still evolving on a planet still governed by physics.

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    sinner at large says:

    try google earth.. and have a look from outer space at the chemical cesspools of Alberta .. Let us all know if you truly believe magical Stephen Harper (the most powerful person in Canada, politically) can get them cleaned up and restore the boreal forest to its original state as promised.. while foreign and domestic tar sands ‘players’ must keep creating more and larger tailings ponds. Here’s a link re what’s inside the tailings ponds http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/12/04/0912050106.short ‘Abstract – Oil sands development contributes polycyclic aromatic compounds to the Athabasca River and its tributaries’ .. Unfortunately, there are Canadian citizens living downstream from the tar sands, and innumerable fish, birds, mammals etc. Who shall be tried in the criminal courts when ‘reap what you sow’ is poisoned waters.. buried scientific studies that identified the poisoning .. and a government that does not see responsibility to its citizens as a duty they were elected to look after ? Or perhaps you see being poisoned via your land, your water and your air as some sort of political fantasy game ? Go look up Minimata .. and mercury poisoning .. it will give you an idea of where the tar sands discharges are taking us .. how government (in Japan) condoned the pollution and obstructed information about those afflicted by corporate entities poisoning the water supply and the food chain.

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    sinner at large says:

    Hi don craig .. Here’s comments from The Supreme Court re the comprehensive vote suppression in 2011 .. ‘The court said the case revolves around serious concerns about the integrity of Canada’s electoral system. “Far from being frivolous or vexatious, or an obvious abuse, the applications raise serious issues about the integrity of the democratic process in Canada,” Milczynski wrote. The applicants identified “practices that if proven, point to a campaign of activities that would seek to deny eligible voters their right to vote and/or manipulate or interfere with that right being exercised freely,” she continued. Failure to bring such serious allegations before the courts could shake public confidence and trust in the electoral process, Milczynski added. What the Harper Party & Government hold to be frivolous, vexatious, or an obvious abuse .. ie standing up for and defending every Canadian vote .. is seen in an entirely different light by The Supreme Court. This is fact.. yet with abuses identified in approx 200 ridings, and affidavits from the ridings included in the Supreme Court Case, the only persons or groups disputing the danger and illegality of the voter suppression practices are conservative lawyers, politicians, partisans, and we must assume the Cabinet and the Prime Minister. It seems Dean Del Mastro speaks for and has the full support of all of those unconcerned Conservatives, regarding the possibility of electoral fraud in the 2011 federal election. That being .. it didn’t happen. FYI don craig – examine source documents and the facts re examples such as ‘In/Out Conservative election spending conviction as well as the 2011 NDP convention conviction. Sadly, many many politicians and partisans have serious problems with ‘situational ethics’ and fundamental honesty or integrity. Can I assume you are factually up to date re Fantino – Vaughn – 2011 fundraising concerns ?

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    Pete says:

    Your facts are outdated. Hundreds of millions have been spent and continue to be spent in cleaning up the tailings ponds. The technology to handle the talings has come a long way and I believe virtually no tailings have been getting onto the Athabasca for some time now.

    Harper didn’t create them and the oil companies have been searching out technology for several years through research, trial and error. Cleanup projects are well underway.

    Your outdated facts are the sin at large

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    sinner at large says:

    Hi Pete .. apologies to you and to mod WK, but my browser is not linking my response directly to your reply.

    I’m always looking for the most recent and accurate evidence based information. Please update me if possible ! Or point me to your source materials.
    Yes there is money being spent on tailing pond rehab. Nevertheless they continue to be made from earth & are unlined.
    Of course Stephen Harper did not dig or create or fill the ponds.. My point is that he and Oliver and Kent will never enforce their rehabilitation as promised.
    Expecting foreign owned or domestic energy players to do so is a pipe-dream. They maintain a few completed ‘model’ wetland reclamation examples
    and make sure all visitors see the token buffalo herd of 300 at Wood Bison Viewpoint..

    The science of tailing pond reclamation is evolving .. Re my outdated facts on tailings ponds ?
    Have a look at recent data and suggestions from Environment Canada ..

    4 billion litres per year is the ‘conservative’ estimate of leakage in 2010.. and may grow to 25 billion by 2020.
    An academic study of surface water contamination (Univ of Waterloo – Barker et al, 2007) estimated 6 million litres per day
    had been leaking from Suncor Energy’s Tar Island tailings pond, through the 3 kilometer long and 90 meter high dike directly into The Athabasca River.
    Its estimated by the Alberta Government there will be a trillion liters of tailings ponds by 2020
    Until the Three Gorges Dam opened in China, one earthen dike on Syncrude land was the largest dam in the world,
    18 km around and made of 540 million m3 of material. (Hoover Dam is 2.6 million m3.

    Meanwhile, Environmental groups ‘successfully’ took the federal government and Environment Canada to court in 2011
    to initiate emergency protection of critical caribou habitat that should have been in place by 2007.
    Unfortunately, the strategy’s habitat management tools include strychnine, foot dragging and obstruction and denial.
    The Alberta Government and federal Environment Minister Peter Kent are continuing to support and fund shooting wolves as well as poisoning wolves
    along with any other animal that eats the airdropped strychnine baits. This is their solution as the removal of boreal forests impacts the boreal and southern caribou.

    Will we see the federal courts as an ongoing or last resort regarding tailings ponds pollution, adherence and reclamation ? Almost certainly
    Will the Harper Government do everything in its powers to ramp up tar sands production, pipelines and export via Chinese VLCC tankers.. most certainly.
    Are we seeing any indication of responsible resource stewardship, environmental responsibility from this government ? Not a shred
    If there is a religion or credo or mantra any of the so called ‘leaders’ of this government stand by or for or adhere to
    please let us all know what it is ,,, as it does not appear to be from this planet.

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      Pete says:

      SINNER………. Your stats are seriously outdated. Almost ALL water used is being recirculated now and the ponds are traspping the rest

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        sinner at large says:

        Hi Pete

        Of course as much water as possible is being recirculated Pete. The tar sands operators want to minimize re-heating water for the bitumen separation process as it costs them in natural gas, electricity, transport, labour and pond construction . Your confusion or lack of facts re the tar sands may stem from a belief in The Harper Party, Pete. Or perhaps you are reading bumph or energy sector propaganda I suggest you read up on serious and unbiased source documentation. Perhaps start with a basic primer via Wikipedia.

        If my ‘stats’ are out of date, its because they are found in the most current Environment Canada website, a Ministry controlled and directed by Stephen Harper and former TV broadcaster, Peter Kent. You would think they must be the most informed and up to date.. and after all they have been elected to serve and inform us, the citizens of Canada correct ? The tailings ponds are holding water used in the process that will not necessarily be recycled as they want to ‘settle’ the tailings via ‘flocculents’ and gravity over time, then remove the water and cover the settled course tailings and ponds after harvesting useful ‘fine’ tailings. Every tar sands operator accepts that consistant leakage from earthen tailing ponds is inevitable. This acceptance is stated clearly in all of their proposals and applications. Geez Pete.. why not make your own experimental test dike with the most dense earth you can find (maybe fine clay – soil – sand) fill up the test pond with water and add some jello powder or red or blue dye.. see what leaches out ? If you want to be really daring, add some mercury or lead and used motor oil.. but I do not suggest you drink from the pond nor what leaches from the pond.. even tho Joe Oliver suggest its probably just dandy.

        The issue remains, Pete.. that the tar sands operators, the Alberta Government and the Harper Government and related government agencies and ministries cannot have full understanding of the consequences of the dispersing chemicals involved and their levels downstream, become public knowledge. That will possibly lead to criminal charges and falling governments. This precess is usually described as obstruction, corruption or cover-up. I ask the question underlying this again.. What religion (if any), belief system, morality (if any) or dogma is behind the people, politicians, or government that is operating in this manner ? Who risks the health and welfare of their citizens and their environment and suggest its being done in the name of jobs, prosperity and good government.. That’s just ludicrous Pete.. and I expect the courts will deem it criminal…

        I’m curious.

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