THE GALLON ENVIRONMENT LETTER
Institute for Business and the Environment
410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231
Vol. 14, No. 2, February 23, 2009
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This issue of Gallon Environment Letter is
about the Federal Budget 2009. There is a lot about energy and the environment
in this Budget, not all of it clear and not all of it good. But it is there and
we hope our analysis helps your interpretation.
President Obama has come and gone. Environment
Minister Jim Prentice had expressed a hope for an agreement on a greenhouse gas
cap-and-trade program. It was not to be, at least not yet, but may come in the
future. Our editorial explores whether this would be a good thing for
Will Amos has written to us about our St.
Lawrence Cement coverage and Treena Hein has written to draw our attention to
Storm Cunningham's book: The Restoration Economy. Also in our 30 Second Summary
feature we report on the leading edge Delhi, India, initiative on plastic bags
and draw your attention to the fact that Waste Diversion Ontario has issued a
draft report for consultation on the Blue Box Program Plan Review.
Sustainable Development Technology Canada will
be looking for applications for those who could effectively use some money for
new biofuel technologies and their twice annual application period for funding
for other types of environmental technologies also will be announced this week.
Our associate editor reviews Slumdog Millionaire as a movie about Sustainable
Development. As we conclude our Groundhog Month issue we ask a question we never
thought we would ask: Where’s PETA when you need them?
Next issue we will take an in-depth look at
the recent report of Canada’s Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable
Development. The report sets a higher bar for federal government environmental
performance that could have an impact on many future programs, possibly
including some of those announced in the budget.
AMERICAN CAP AND TRADE?
Recently we have heard a great deal from the
Federal Government on how they want to do a greenhouse gas cap and trade program
with the Obama administration. Apparently some in the government were hoping
that this subject would be the Prime Minister’s agenda in his meetings with
President Obama. That we only got agreement on a technology dialogue, as if
talking is action on the challenge of climate change, does not mean that
the idea of a binational cap and trade program is dead.
As GL sees it, there is little doubt that a
binational cap and trade program would be good for Canada. We are short of low
cost industrial emission reduction opportunities and on a percentage basis our
emissions have risen faster than those of the US: a 25.3% rise between 1990 and
2005 since 1990 compared to 15.3% for the United States. A significant part of
our emissions are the result of our resources and manufactured goods trade with
the US, something that the Kyoto Protocol failed to address. Developing a cap
and trade program that spanned both countries would give our industries access
to lower cost carbon credit opportunities and would allow the Conservative
government, still less than forthcoming on climate change initiatives, to say
that Canada was only doing something that the US has already decided to
However, we have two or maybe three,
First, it is not at all clear why the US
administration would want to enter into a joint cap and trade program with
Canada. President Obama has made it quite clear that climate change will be one
of his priorities. It is still not a priority for the Canadian government and,
at least in the short term, designing a binational program will add a level of
complexity that will only slow down US progress while offering the US program
nothing of significance. Or is there something? The fact that Canada does not
add much to a US cap and trade program is so obvious that we have to think that
it would be obvious even to a bunch of climate change sceptics like the Harper
cabinet. So does the Canadian government have something up its sleeve to offer
the US? We wonder what it might be.
Second, although a binational program would
reduce the cost of carbon credits for Canadian emitters in the short term, the
tables could be turned in ten years. If Canada moves forward with major nuclear
power initiatives in Ontario and in Alberta, Canada might well have a glut of
carbon credits for sale in that timeframe. The Canadian numbers would still be
small on a continental scale but they might be enough to attract significant US
investment in Canadian power and steam generation. Is the federal government
planning its binational cap and trade initiative with an eye to attracting US
investment in Canada’s nuclear industry?
Third, the rules for a US cap and trade
program are likely to be much more comprehensive than anything yet discussed
openly by governments in Canada. Congress and the US administration will move
more quickly and will likely cover far more industries than anyone in Canada is
realistically expecting our government to do. A US program, the ground rules for
which are already visible in the regional initiatives that are already well
advanced, will be designed for the US economy. The structure of the Canadian
economy is quite different. The Conservative Government has, quite correctly,
criticized the Chrétien government for signing on to Kyoto without having a plan
and without understanding its implications for Canada. Are we now seeing the
Harper government signing on to US cap and trade without having a plan and
without understanding its implications for Canada?
We are not suggesting that any of the above is
true. It is just that something does not smell right about the Harper
government’s new found enthusiasm for signing on to a US cap and trade program.
We invite anyone with any inside insights to give us a call - as always, tips
will be treated in the strictest confidence.
A SLIGHT GREEN
TINGE BUT DEFINITELY NOT A GREEN BUDGET
Hopes for a green economy budget, faint as
they may have been, were dashed when Canadians heard the federal Finance
Minister present his plans late last month. Since the budget we have not heard
too much about a green economy from the opposition leaders, though many outside
government in most OECD countries are discussing how this recession may lead to
a restructuring of developed world economies along greener lines.
However, green is sufficiently entrenched
these days that even a budget designed to prop up brown industries includes a
few tidbits for environmental industries. The following is a summary of the
green and anti-green aspects GL was able to dig out of the Budget.
Note: where the sentence is preceded by - this
is directly from the the budget statement.
The Budget Plan includes a section headed A
More Sustainable Environment. In this section the announcements are limited
- A new Clean Energy Fund that supports clean
energy research, development and demonstration projects. We expect this funding
will generate more than $2.5 billion in investments such as carbon capture and
storage, over the next five years.
- Improving the Government’s annual reporting
on key environmental indicators such as clean air, clean water and greenhouse
gas emissions with $10 million in 2009–10. The Canadian Environmental
Sustainability Indicators initiative produces a coherent set of indicators on
water quality, air quality, and greenhouse gas emissions over time. Budget 2009
will provide $10 million in 2009–10 to sustain the Government’s annual reporting
on the environmental indicators.
- Strengthening Canada’s nuclear advantage
with $351 million to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited for its operations,
including the development of the Advanced CANDU Reactor, and to maintain safe and reliable operations at the Chalk River
Participation in AECL?
GL readers may also be interested to know that
the Budget promises that:
- The Minister of Natural Resources is
reviewing AECL’s structure to ensure that it is appropriate in a changing
marketplace. The review will include consideration of options, including private
sector participation in the commercial operations of the corporation, in order
to position Canada’s nuclear industry to take maximum advantage of future
home and abroad.
Whatever can that statement mean?
One of the fiscally larger government program
announcements relates to contaminated sites:
- $81 million over the next two years for
program management and additional assessments of federal contaminated sites—contributing to an improved
environment as well as economic development and employment opportunities. This
funding is expected to enable departments to accelerate $165 million of
environmental remediation work on sites covered by the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan in all regions of
Northern Natural Gas to Market
More natural gas only benefits the environment
if it actually displaces use of coal or oil. Such details appear not to be
deterring the government’s appetite for bringing more fossil fuel to
- Investments in a Mackenzie gas pipeline are
currently being considered that would unlock natural gas reserves in the
Mackenzie region. Budget 2009 provides $37.6 million in 2009–10 to departments and agencies in support of environmental
assessments, regulatory coordination, science, and Aboriginal consultations
related to the Mackenzie Gas Project.
Perhaps with a partial focus on community
environmental projects, the budget promises:
- a one-time grant of $15 million to the YMCA
and YWCA to place youth in internships in not-for-profit and community services
organizations, with a focus on environmental projects.
Efficiency and Reducing Environmental Assessment?
In the "we wonder what it means" category, the
government has promised:
- to introduce changes to the federal
regulatory framework through legislative, regulatory and administrative actions
to drive efficiencies in assessing environmental and other impacts of
infrastructure projects without compromising protection of the
As part of this, the government has said
- will implement administrative changes to
streamline application of the Fisheries Act, and regulatory efficiencies will be
pursued for projects subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. For
example, for projects requiring a federal environmental assessment
decision, regulations could allow one
environmental assessment process to meet federal and provincial requirements, by
agreement with the provinces and territories.
GL notes that most observers see the federal
Fisheries Act as having been one of the most effective pieces of legislation for
dealing with industrial pollution.
The almost $12 billion in total infrastructure
funding in Budget 2009 that is attracting such attention seems to be focussed on
"roads, bridges, broadband internet access, electronic health records,
laboratories and border crossings". Not too much in that list that helps advance
a greener economy, though in other places in the budget document the same list
also includes "clean energy", as if it was added as an
Budget 2009 provides $1 billion over five
years for a Green Infrastructure Fund. Funding will be allocated based on merit
to support green infrastructure projects on a cost-shared basis.
However, the government’s ideas of what
constitute Green Infrastructure seem a little unusual, if the following example
is any indication:
- Green infrastructure includes infrastructure
that supports a focus on the creation of sustainable energy. Sustainable energy
infrastructure, such as modern energy transmission lines, will contribute to
improved air quality and lower carbon emissions.
GL wonders how "modern energy transmission
lines" are green? Maybe the authors of the budget meant to describe a Smart
Grid", something that is more to do with control systems than the wires
The government has identified other specific
examples of how this Green Infrastructure Fund may be spent:
- In Newfoundland and Labrador, we will
proceed with improvements to the Tshiuetin railway,
- In Prince Edward Island, we will invest in
the Summerside Wind Energy Project.
-In Quebec, we will upgrade roads in the
Québec City metropolitan area, and upgrade water and sewer systems across the
- Railway stations in Hamilton, Windsor and
Belleville will be improved. The crucial commuter hub for the Greater Toronto
Area, Toronto’s landmark Union Station, will, at last, be
- And, in Ontario and Quebec, we will take a
big step forward in improving travel on the Toronto–Montréal–Ottawa corridor. We
will add a third railway track at key locations between Montréal and Toronto,
which will allow more express trains and make the express trip shorter by 30
- In Manitoba, work on Winnipeg’s Centreport
Project will accelerate, and the province’s Keewatin Railway Company will
receive new investments.
- In Alberta, work will proceed on the Telus
Science Centre in Calgary, and we will help twin the Trans-Canada Highway
through Banff National Park.
-In British Columbia, funds will flow for the
Evergreen Transit Line and for a more modern railway station in Vancouver—key
projects as the city prepares to host the Olympic Winter Games.
-In Yukon, investments will be made in
While it is difficult to criticize transit
improvements, the Green Infrastructure Fund appears to GL to be more a mechanism
for enhancing federal profile than for making major improvements to the
environmental footprint of Canadians.
Sewer and Water Infrastructure
Rightly, in GL’s opinion, because it
encourages full cost recovery for municipal services, money for municipal
infrastructure upgrades is being provided in the form of loans rather than
- And over the next two years we will make
available another $2 billion in low-cost loans to municipalities to invest in
sewers, water lines and other housing-related renewal projects.
First Nations water and wastewater problems
are also addressed:
-Over the next two years, we will make major,
new investments in Aboriginal communities, to build and renovate schools and
health services facilities, to improve wastewater treatment, and to provide safe
Efficiency in Social Housing
There is no doubt that much social housing in
Canada is in poor condition, especially with respect to energy efficiency.
However, the announced program provides money without requiring that energy
efficiency is addressed:
- In Canada’s Economic Action Plan, we are
also investing in social housing facilities—another key part of our country’s
infrastructure. Many of our social housing units need general renovations,
energy-efficiency upgrades, and improved accessibility features.
Renovations: Energy Efficiency not Mandatory
The much ballyhooed Home Renovation Tax Credit
program does not require energy efficiency and environmental improvements.
Apparently one can even claim the tax credit if the home renovation worsens
energy efficiency and increases environmental footprint by expanding the size of
- And, to stimulate spending and to help
Canadians invest in the long-term value of their homes, we will provide a
temporary Home Renovation Tax Credit. Effective until January 31, 2010, this
measure will provide tax relief for home renovation costs—saving Canadian
families up to $1,350 each on their 2009
taxes. The Home Renovation Tax Credit is available for renovations to the house
or the cottage, for everything from a new furnace to energy-efficient
windows to a new deck.
On a slightly more positive side, Budget 2009
has committed to
- providing an additional $300 million over
two years to the ecoENERGY Retrofit program to support an estimated 200,000
additional home retrofits.
GL notes that, although the government claims
that grants under ecoENERGY Retrofit can be up to $5,000, the typical grant to
date is a little over $1,000, hardly enough to make much progress towards the
government goal of reducing the energy use of participating homes by
Carbon capture and storage, a technology which
is so far unproven, is technically controversial, and which is at least many
years away from large scale implementation, seems to be the cornerstone of the
government’s greenhouse gas reduction technology program, gets many mentions in
- Canada has committed to a 20 per cent
reduction of greenhouse gases by 2020. Clean-energy technologies have the
potential to make a significant contribution by reducing emissions from the
production and use of energy, and creating new opportunities as Canada
transitions toward a greener global economy. This is particularly the case for
technologies that capture carbon dioxide, one of the most important greenhouse
gases, at the point of production in industrial facilities and safely store it
Since 2006, the Government has provided $375
million to support the development of carbon capture and storage technologies,
including $250 million in Budget 2008 for a full-scale commercial demonstration
of carbon capture and storage in the coal-fired electricity sector in
Saskatchewan, research on the potential for
carbon storage in Nova Scotia, and economic and technological issues. An
additional $125 million is available for carbon capture and storage projects
under the ecoENERGY Technology Initiative of Natural Resources
- To further support Canada’s leadership in
clean energy, Budget 2009 provides $1 billion over five years to support clean
energy technologies. This includes $150 million over five years for research,
and $850 million over five years for the development and demonstration of
promising technologies, including large-scale carbon capture and storage
projects. This support is expected to generate a total investment in clean
technologies of at least $2.5 billion over the next five years.
- In light of the potential importance of
carbon capture and storage as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from
large industrial facilities, the Government will also consult with stakeholders
to identify specific assets used in carbon capture and storage with a view to
providing accelerated capital cost allowance (CCA) in respect of such
investments. Accelerated CCA is used to actively promote investment in certain
clean-energy generation technologies. Advancing the timing of capital cost
deductions for tax purposes defers taxation and improves the financial return
from investment in particular assets.
Note that currently no industry is investing
in carbon capture and storage projects in Canada so to GL the idea of providing
accelerated CCA to CCS projects seems somewhat premature.
We are not sure what the government sees as
being wrong with Transport Canada but Budget 2009 provides that:
- Transport Canada is shifting to a more
effective regulatory approach to safety and security, strengthening its
leadership to meet global challenges in support of trade and security
priorities, and refocusing its operations on national and essential services. As
a result, Transport Canada is strengthening
its capacity to advance transportation safety in Canada and to promote a more
efficient, effective and environmentally clean transportation
Businesses are being given a tax break to
encourage them to replace their computer and IT systems. The government
accurately notes that:
- This temporary measure could result in some
limited adverse environmental effects to the extent that computer equipment that
is being replaced is not stored, reused, recycled or disposed of in an
The government’s statement that:
- However there are a number of government and
industry programs that encourage re-use and proper disposal of electronic
ignores the fact that few of these programs
are ready to accept a large influx of additional end-of-life technology.
Although new technology can help companies become more competitive, and is
therefore generally well worth supporting, it is not clear how an initiative
which encourages industry to spend money on what is almost entirely imported
technology finds its way into a budget supposed to be focussed on job
Many of the commitments appear to involve a
degree of double counting. For example, the Green Infrastructure Fund is
included in the total $12 billion budget promise for infrastructure. This makes
it difficult to dissect which sector will receive what monies.
The Budget promises:
- $7.5 billion in extra support for sectors,
regions and communities. This includes targeted support for the auto, forestry and manufacturing sectors,
as well as funding for clean energy.
It is not clear to GL that much of this $7.5
billion will go to clean energy. The Canadian Wind Energy Association has
pointed out that the ecoENERGY for Renewable Power Program (eRPP), that was
announced by the Harper government in January 2007 to support deployment of
4,000MW of new low-impact, renewable electricity projects was expected to run
until 2011 but has been so successful in encouraging projects that all funds
will be allocated almost two years ahead of schedule.
Environmental Sustainability in Agriculture
The budget also provides, without any details,
- a five-year, $500 million agricultural
flexibility program that will facilitate the implementation of new initiatives,
both federally and in partnership with provinces, territories and
This program will help the sector adapt to
pressures and improve its competitiveness by funding non-business
risk-management measures such as those that will reduce costs of production,
improve environmental sustainability, promote innovation and respond to market
challenges. Budget 2009 allocates $190 million over two years to support the
agricultural flexibility program. The balance will be funded from existing
unallocated Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada resources.
In an effort to find more uses for wood and
therefore, presumably, to cut more trees, Budget 2009 includes:
- a total of $170 million over two years for
the following measures that will secure a more sustainable industry by helping
companies develop new products and processes, and take action on new
opportunities in the international market place.
- $80 million over two years to Natural
Resources Canada for the Transformative Technologies program administered by
FPInnovations. FPInnovations is a not-for-profit forest research institute that
focuses on the development of emerging and breakthrough technologies related to
forest biomass utilization, nanotechnology and next generation forest products.
- $40 million will be provided to Natural
Resources Canada in 2010–11 to develop pilot-scale demonstration projects of new
products that can be used in commercial applications.
- $40 million over two years for the Canada
Wood, Value to Wood, and North America Wood First programs to help forestry companies market
innovative products internationally.
- $10 million will be provided to Natural
Resources Canada in 2009–10 to support large-scale demonstrations of
Canadian-style use of wood for construction in targeted off-shore markets,
and non-traditional uses of wood in domestic
The Government has committed to building a
world-class, High Arctic research station to improve understanding of the
northern environment. However, not much will happen for a while:
- Budget 2009 provides Indian and Northern
Affairs Canada with $2 million to undertake a feasibility study for the proposed
Last but by no means least, the budget
includes a commitment to:
- 30 new environmental response barges that
will support Canadian Coast Guard operational requirements across the
It is not clear to GL what these barges are
for. Interestingly, according to Google, the word "barge" does not currently
appear on the Canadian Coast Guard website. Barges, which are unpowered vessels,
are hardly the fastest way to respond to environmental emergencies.
Paid subscribers see links to original
documents and references here.
ST. LAWRENCE CEMENT GL V13 NO.12
Hope all is well – I note that you covered in
your December newsletter the St. Lawrence Cement victory. Thanks for mentioning
Ecojustice….we sometimes struggle to get recognition for our victories, and this
was a huge one. It was my first appearance before the Supreme Court of
I have written a memorandum for Bea Olivastri,
our client on the file; this is to be published in a scholarly journal and I'll
send along the link when it is published. Certainly, this is a case that goes to
the heart of your personal interest in the connection between business and
As it happens, I am engaged on another case
that might be of interest to you: the Dow Agrichemical lawsuit against Canada
under Chapter 11 of NAFTA related to Quebec’s ban on the use and distribution of
cosmetic pesticides. Certainly one that engages your precautionary principle
article in the latest edition.
Staff Lawyer/Conseiller juridique
uOttawa-Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic,
University of Ottawa
Tel: (613) 562 5800 ext. 3378 Fax: (613) 562
5319 wamos///ecojustice.ca [replace with symbol]
Treena Hein, Science writer, editor and
educational consultant writes to GL to say "Thank you again for your excellent
newsletter" and in regard to the book reviews about non-growth economic models,
suggests checking out http://www.restorationeconomy.com GL did check it out and found it to be the web site for
Storm Cunningham's book called The Restoration Economy.
Cunningham who is based in Washington, DC.
recently spoke at McMaster University in Hamilton ("Steeltown"), Ontario. The
key part of his concept of restorative development is to return property,
objects or other elements to an earlier state without using up more land so he
is keen on brownfield restoration. He suggests growth sectors of the future will
be in eight industries, four natural (restoring ecosystems, watersheds,
fisheries and farms) and four built (restoring brownfields, infrastructure,
heritage and damage from disasters/war).
Hein herself is a Canadian journalist who won the 2008 Star Prize sponsored
by John Deer presented in Graz, Austria in September 2008 by the International
Federation of Agricultural Journalists.
The Indian city of Delhi is tackling plastic
bags in ways no other jurisdiction has. The notification reads:
"That the use, sale and storage of all kinds
of plastic bags shall be forbidden in respect of the following places in the
National Capital Territory of Delhi, namely :—
(a) Five Star and Four Star
(b) Hospitals with 100 or more beds
except for the use of plastic bags as prescribed under Bio Medical Waste
(Management and Handling) Rules, 1998.
(c)All restaurants and eating places
having seating capacity of more than 50 seats.
(d) All fruit and vegetable outlets of
Mother Dairy. [GL: about 400 outlets run by Mother Dairy set up in 1974 under
the Operation Flood Programme. It is now a wholly owned company of the National
Dairy Development Board ]
(e) All liquor vends.
(f) All shopping Malls.
(g) All shops in main markets and local
(h) All retail and wholesale outlets of
Branded chain of outlets selling different consumer products including fruits
...In places other than the aforesaid places
and as observed by the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi only Bio-degradable plastic
bags shall be used. "
Fines and jail terms are to be levied for lack
GL has thought that the idea of charging for
shopping bags while providing free plastic bags in the store for fruits,
vegetables and other bulk items undermines the idea. In fact, we have
often found that cashiers will pack our loose fruit, lettuce, and packaged
meats into a separate bag even when we have our own reusable bags, reusable
or cardboard boxes. And the plastic bags often used to line every garbage bin,
ice bucket, and so on in hotel rooms has raised the ire of some of GL’s
associates; however, we need to be careful that eliminating plastic bags, say in
the hotel bathroom, may expose more hotel workers to unsanitary conditions which
may affect their health.
Paid subscribers see links to original
documents and references here.
Waste Diversion Ontario has issued a draft
report for consultation on the Blue Box Program Plan Review. The draft was
developed after consultations one of which GL's editor attended. Written
submissions received by February 27, 2009 will be considered in the revision of
the report and its recommendations before being submitted to the Minister of the
Environment, John Gerretsen who requested the review of the Ontario curbside
recycling program in late 2008. Extended producer responsibility EPR is a key
focus. Another report summarizes the consultation process.
Among the draft recommendations
- set target of 85% collection, 75% recycling
and energy recovery to a maximum of 10%.
- changes in methodologies for calculating
collection, recycling. For example, measure recycling as materials used in new
- set targets for specific materials e.g.
plastics which have a lower recycling rate.
- set penalties for failure to meet targets at
a higher rate than it would cost to meet the targets.
- set common standards across all
municipalities for materials collected (differences could be through depot or
- minimize problemative products and packaging
e.g. large size bulk water bottles.
Paid subscribers see links to original
documents and references here.
DEVELOPMENT TECHNOLOGY CANADA
Sustainable Development Technology Canada
(SDTC) is an arm’s-length foundation which has received $1.05 billion from the
Government of Canada. SDTC operates two funds.
The $500 million NextGen Biofuels Fund™,
launched in September 2007, supports the establishment of first-of-kind large
demonstration-scale facilities for the production of next-generation renewable
fuels for up to 40% of eligible project costs. The contribution will be
repayable based on free cash flow over a period of 10 years after project
completion. The fund is open for applications all year-round. To be eligible, a
- be a First-of-Kind facility that
primarily produces a next-generation renewable fuel at large
- be located in Canada;
- use feedstocks that are or could be
representative of Canadian biomass; and
- have demonstrated its technology at
The $550 million SD Tech Fund™ supports
projects that address climate change, air quality, clean water, and clean soil.
The SDTC will call for statements of interest on February 25, 2009 with SOI
submission deadlines of April 22, 2009 and results notification is May 27,
Paid subscribers see links to original
documents and references here.
MILLIONAIRE: AN SD MOVIE?
Part fantasy, part too-much-reality, the
Slumdog Millionaire movie won awards including four Golden Globes, seven British
Academy of Film and Television awards and 8 Oscars including best
picture at the February 22 Oscar awards. It is said that over $40 million
in India alone was riding on it in bets about the Oscars. At a cost of "only"
US$15 million, the film is considered small by movie industry standards but had
already grossed over $130 million in box office sales by mid-February. The
public rarely has the same views on the big business
of movies/television, stars and film directors as it does towards the
big business of manufacturing and banks.
According to a posting by Sophie Lubin on the
onearth magazine, a publication of the US Natural Resources Defense Council, the
movie has a lot to do with the environment and economics. In brief, the
character Jamal Malik (played by British actor Dev Patel), born and raised as a
street child from the Dharavi slums of Mumbai, at age 18 enters an Indian
version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, not because he wants to be rich but
because of the show's high viewership: he hopes to find the orphan girl Latika
who shared his boyhood and whom he loves but whom he lost in escaping from a
gangster who collects street children to use them to make money, begging,
prostitution, pick-pocketing, etc. He is one question away from winning 20
million rupees when the show takes a hiatus. The movie opens when the police
arrest and torture him to obtain a confession he has cheated. Instead he affirms
his innocence and describes the events many of them horrific as experienced by
children growing up in such poverty and chaos which have led him to know the
answers to the specific questions. While some succumb to criminality and
despair, Jamal and others favour loyalty, hope and love. Commenting on the film,
Lubin says that the movie "shows with cinematic clarity precisely what the
social, environmental, and economic trade offs actually look like of the
population boom in India’s most depressed slums, for her most undervalued
heroes." She writes that this isn't a documentary which comments on trash,
population overflow and poverty so it is "not a movie about solving the problems
of India, but rather a baseline of understanding from which solutions to the
fundamental issues at hand can be formulated."
Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan wrote in his
blog that after seeing asylum seekers begging in Paris that "Conditions the
world over are so similar. Perceptions differ but the reality of life and
existence unchanged" as a prelude to saying while "SM projects India as Third
World dirty under belly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among
nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky under belly exists and
thrives even in the most developed nations. It's just that the SM idea authored
by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a Westerner, gets
creative Globe recognition. The other would perhaps not." He lamented what had
been the lack of appreciation given to the "entertaining mass oriented box
office block busters that were being churned out from Mumbai" but that was
changing now as TV channels in the West run Hindi cinema in prime time and
India's movies are premiering in London, Paris and New York to throngs of
crowds. According to the UK Guardian these comments indicated that "Bollywood
Icon Amitabh Bachchan rubbishes Slumdog Millionaire", newspaper articles which
Bachchan said were misreporting and " spawned an epidemic in the Asian press now
reaching such a feverish pitch that I can no longer make light of their
content." One of the questions Jamal Malik in SM has to answer relates to
Bachchan. It still remains controversial whether the film is British or
Another controversy relates to what the child
actors who were from the slum were paid for a month's work. The issue of fair
compensation is one faced by multinational corporations who have corporate
social responsibility policies: is paying people in the developing world, a few
dollars a day fair pay even if that is more than many people there can expect to
get? Many companies say they apply high environmental standards wherever they
operate even if the countries they are in don't require it but GL hasn't heard
of any who also pay the same wage around the
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documents and references here.
WHEN YOU NEED THEM
There are good stories, and then there are bad
stories. Santa Claus belongs in the former category but Groundhog Day does not.
After living through yet another year of Wiarton Willie, Punxatawny Phil,
Shubenacadie Sam, Staten Island Chuck (we mention this because Staten Island is
home to what was the Fresh Kills Landfill, one of those marvels of human
activity that is so big you can reportedly actually see it from space. It is to
become a city park) and a dozen and one other February 2nd
Groundhogs. GL thinks its time to put an end to this whole story line. After
all, according to Environment Canada’s resident weather guru and climate change
sceptic, Dave Philips, these guys, at least Wiarton Willie, are only right about
37% of the time. That could be even worse than Dave Philips’ own weather
predictions. (see next GL issue on the annual report from the Auditor-General of
Canada by the Commissioner of the Environment and
Sustainable Development on Environment Canada's
Have you ever been asked which you would
rather have, a watch that tells the right time twice a day or a watch that tells
the right time once every 1440 years? The February 2nd groundhog
brigade are in the latter category, and now everyone wants one. Even Balzac
Billy in normally sensible Balzac, Alberta and Brandon Bob in Brandon, Manitoba
(home of one of Canad’s largest hog processing plants, nothing to do with
groundhogs) are getting in on the act.
Looking at the online pictures of Punxatawny
Phil this February 2nd (see below for link), we cannot be sure
whether he is stuffed or alive. But whichever he is, the proliferation of
groundhog awakenings in the middle of hibernation season seems to GL to be a
definite case for attention by People for the Ethical Treatment of
We implore thee, PETA, get to it before next
February 2nd. Please.
Lots of information about the Fresh Kills landfill
in Wikipedia at
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