Monday, 20 April 2015

Snake oil and bunker oil... something's mighty fishy in English Bay these days.

Vancouver has a jaw-droppingly beautiful harbour. Despite being the fourth largest port on the continent, it's home to killer whales, grey whales, harbour seals, sea otters, a multitude of fish and birds, and of course, the exotic, blue-tinged polar bear swimmer.

It's a powerful place. It's teeming with life because it's here that the continent meets the Pacific, but it's also where the natural world collides with the industrial. 

It's a relationship with an historically one-sided outcome; after all, how often does nature triumph over industry?

Industry enjoyed a slam dunk here quite recently. There are seventeen moorages in English Bay, deep water parking spaces for ships awaiting their day at port. Last week a brand spanking new grain ship on its maiden mission was awaiting its turn in the harbour and inexplicably fouled the waters when it lost many thousand litres of bunker oil. A recreational boater in English Bay alerted the authorities at 5:00 pm on Thursday, the 9th of April, but even though he waited for hours for the coast guard to arrive, he didn't see anyone. No one placed a boom around the leaking Marathasa until midnight. 

According to the Bellingham Harbour master, the alarm wasn't even sounded till 8:00 pm, and it took them another four hours after that to get a boom around the vessel. That's seven hours from the call. Worse, it was sixteen hours before anyone alerted the city to the spill, so the first anyone in Vancouver heard of it was the next morning. You might wonder how it could take so long to respond to a spill in such a busy urban centre, but the nearest Coast Guard station is down next to the airport at Sea Island in Richmond, where the Fraser River meets the Georgia Strait, over ten kilometres away. The closest boom ship is in Port Moody, in the opposite direction. You'd think that a busy port like Vancouver would have a Coast Guard, wouldn't you? It certainly used to. With the abysmal response to this spill, a chorus cried "I told you so!" Why? Two years ago, the Feds closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, the busiest in the country.

Incredibly, the Coast Guard commissioner in Ottawa claimed that the response to this spill was "world class," and insisted that an open and operating Kitsilano coast guard station wouldn't have made any difference whatsoever. But then federal employees are not allowed to speak truth, didn't you know? You might think I am being facetious, but sadly, no. It isn't just our federal scientists who've been silenced, and scripted. There is a "Code of Conduct" which emphasises a "Duty of Loyalty" to the "Duly Elected Government," which includes both a muzzle and a snitch line. Any. Federal. Employee. And this code of conduct extends beyond the workplace to the employees' personal lives. They are not allowed to speak out against any aspect of the federal government. End. Of. Story.  Can you believe it?! This is Canada, not North Korea, though you'd never know it. So of course the commissioner would say that this was a world class response. She was obliged -required by law - to lie, and to claim that nothing would have been any different had the station been open.

Take a gander out the window of the closed station and you could have seen the offending ship.
I know a man, a federal investigator who is regularly called upon by the media, and he constantly struggles with that mad "Code of Conduct." He has a reputation for integrity decades in the making, only now the federal government demands he tow the line with heavily scripted propaganda he feels morally compelled to edit from his statements. In doing so, he walks a fine line, lest he invoke the "Ire of Harper." Was there ever any question, then, that the commissioner should made clearly and obviously false statements? The size of the spill was understated. And within a day or two, the feds claimed that  "The lion's share" of the oil was already removed from our waters, which is impossible, not just unlikely. They claimed that 80% of the spill was removed within a few days, when even an excellent, truthfully world class response would have amounted to a 30% removal. Assistant commissioner Roger Girouard actually  had the gall to claim that "Just six litres of oil remained in English bay by Friday!" Six litres. As. If. What an insult to our collective intelligence.

Six. Litres. He knew this because somebody flew a float plane over the bay. They hadn't even looked underneath the surface at that point. This is bunker fuel. Heavy, sludgy bunker fuel, which does, in fact, sink, by the way. Never mind the bathtub ring round the harbour, and the boats all around the region coated in oil. But he insists that we should take their word for it. He insists that this was a world class response to a small spill, and that there are only six litres of oil left floating around out there. We should happily embrace pipelines and the tanker traffic that goes with them, because they have the best possible spill response firmly in hand. Fer fucksake. I am not sure what is worse, that our government is content to so blatantly lie to us, or that we complacent Canadians are happy to bend over and take it, and then keep on taking it, even as the shit they're shovelling is getting WAY out of hand.  My dear fellow citizens, please tell me: Why, Oh Why don't we hold the federal government accountable for its responsibilities?! Why don't we force them to do the things they are legally, ethically, and morally bound to do? Why don't we have this administration recalled?

Come ON, People!! It's well past time to give those nasty,  greedy leaders THE BOOT!
Why DO they continue to get away with such criminal behaviour? Spin. They can spin a better yarn than the best bullshitters, and that's what they do. The conservative government has world class spin doctors at their beck and call, and they had their top notch public relations team working on this spill long before any oil spill response experts made their way to English Bay. Seriously. Their oil spill experts were in Prince Rupert until two days after the spill occurred. The federal mouthpiece, Coast Guard commissioner Jody Thomas said that the Kits station was mainly a search and rescue operation, and therefore that it wouldn't have made a different to this emergency. She claims that the spill response was excellent, and that only negligible amounts of the toxins are remaining in our waters. 

Get a grip, people. We have a right to the truth, and to a healthy, living planet, too.
And it's LIES. All LIES. Captain Tony Toxopeus, retired Kits Coast Guard coxswain, said that his teams would have been on scene between six and fifteen minutes after the sailor's call at five pm. The mouthpiece said that it wouldn't have made a difference to the cleanup, because Kits was mainly a search and rescue facility, but she failed to mention that the Kitsilano station was, in fact, where the coast guard trained its people in spill response. Toxopeus said "the base was equipped with a purpose-built oil pollution response vessel, 300 metres of self-inflating boom and other equipment. Crews were trained regularly to deal with oil spill response."  Unlike the Ottawa based commissioner, Captain Toxopeus knows exactly what he is talking about, because he participated in hundreds of spill response calls. He isn't just reciting a government sanctioned press release, a script designed to make the government look good in the eyes of the less than discriminating Canadian target er, citizen. And the good Captain most certainly knows enough to know that the likelyhood that the brutally slow and inefficient response to that nasty little spill most definitely did NOT contain and remove 80% of the bunker fuel that entered the waters of English Bay.

It's nasty stuff, bunker fuel. Seriously toxic.
Do you know who else knows the score when it comes to spill response? Retired Commander Frederick E Moxley, that's who. Moxley, a 35 year Coast Guard veteran, and former Commander of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station knows what he's talking about, because he has literally responded to hundreds of oil spill calls,and has trained countless men in spill response. 

“I’ve been in hundreds of spills and never seen an 80 per cent recovery,Moxey said"Usually you recover 30 per cent at most, more like 10, and that’s with an immediate response and a trained crew with sponges and straw pulling the oil out by hand.” Moxley is not the only person to suggest that the government is not speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but his objections ought to be given more than a little credence, because nobody knows the facts in this situation better than he does.

Jody Thomas said: the closed facility has been used for storage after the spill, but said having the Kitsilano station open would not have made any difference in the spill response. Moxey contradicted this, stating that the Kitsilano base responded to oil spills as well as search and rescue before it was shut down. "It was a 24-hour-a-day operation," he said. "All the officers and crew at Kitsilano were trained and had responded to oil spills as well as search and rescue. For her to say that is just false and I will sign an affidavit declaring the fact we were and had been called to respond to spills often."

As Canadians, we shouldn't have to wonder whether our leaders are lying. But then we don't have to wonder, really, do we? it's patently obvious that they are. You can almost count on the fact that this administration will say whatever best suits its purpose, truth be damned. As citizens of a vast, resource rich nation, we have a responsibility to take our stewardship of this country seriously, and yet this particular administration is stripping the land of its riches, and putting the profit in the pockets of a very few individuals.many of whom are not even Canadian. 

It's time to put your foot down.
For example, Kinder Morgan is planning to expand their Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to the Vancouver port. They want to twin it. The National Energy Board used to hear from anyone with questions, concerns or comments about these sorts of projects prior to making a decision about whether or not to let it proceed, but Mr Harper put an end to that. The hearings are now closed to everyone but those with a direct stake in the plan on the table. Still. The cities of Vancouver and Burnaby posed some 1200 questions to Kinder Morgan about their plan, especially with respect to their spill response. The National Energy Board was satisfied with Kinder Morgan's heavily redacted response, even though it did not even begin to address a realistic spill scenario, and even though the company refused to answer half of the questions the cities posed. Oh, but if anything bad ever did happen to our coastline, at least Texas billionaire Mr Rich Kinder could afford to represent himself in court. He took home $60,000,000 last year.

Trans Am Totem: becasue Car is King
You heard it here last week, though it's painfully obvious across the planet... something is rotten in the country of Canada, Horatio.  It's not just the toxins in the water, either.

The earning inequality between executives and the rest of the working population is staggering, and it's laying waste to the economy. But nobody has an appetite for change, it seems. Well, almost no one. There is a twenty first century hero amongst us, a Robin Hood for the modern age, except that this man is sacrificing his own bottom line to ensure that his employees have everything they need. His name? Dan Price. You 're not likely to forget it, either, because though he was already cover worthy, he is sure to get some serious air time in the weeks and months to come.

The Price is right! (photo courtesy YPO)
He started his company, Gravity Payments, as a freshman at Seattle Pacific, after learning that small businesses paid as much as five percent to credit card companies just to process their payments. He built the company throughout his education until last year when it realised a $2.2 million dollar profit, as he earned a million dollars. Over the years since founding the company, he noticed that he had two groups of friends: the wealthy executives, and everybody else, and what he saw bothered him.
“I was just experiencing the difference, and seeing both sides of that every day,” he said. The stark divide between the haves and the have-nots irked him, and he felt that the pay-gap between himself and his employees was just too much.
One day, while hiking with a friend, she confided about the stress of having her rent hiked.
“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
About 30 employees will have their salary double, with others getting smaller raises to get them to the $70,000-benchmark. Before the increase, the average salary at Gravity Payments was $48,000, and about 50 employees were already paid above the cut-off, Price said. (From The Star)
He cut his salary to $70,000, and cut into the company's profits, too, to pay for the initiative, but he sees it as an investment. 
Price said the salary cut is just temporary, until the company makes back the profit lost to the higher wages.
“I think the team is going to do a great job and make that up,” he said.
“This is an investment, not charity, and it isn’t any more than what these folks deserve.”
Although he wants to pay employees well, he said it’s also important to pay a CEO a market rate, so that if something were to happen to him, the company could afford to hire his replacement.
“I’m a capitalist,” he said.
Price said he’s been overwhelmed by emails of support from other businesses. He’s especially grateful for the support from his customers, who have applauded the move.
“We’ve literally had hundreds of businesses reach out to us and say that they’d like to do business with us,” he said.
“I think this is going to become a competitive imperative over time, and it will catch on.”
Genius. That's whatchacall Visionary. It's exactly the kind of thinking that will prevent our descent into chaos should the present levels of income disparity continue to grow. 


  1. il Pirata est Mort20 April 2015 at 09:29

    I have more than six liters of oil on my bike chain fer crissakes!

    Hats off to Dan Price. What struck me most was his thinking behind the salary restructuring. It wasn't a handout; but a calculated investment in his company designed to benefit the company. That's what captains of industry do.

    I hear a lot of "leveling the wealth" talk and think "These people have never done business model one." Mr. Price has done the model, calculated the payback, and is poised for success through working his plan. Exemplary work on his part!

    1. Right?! Brilliant. Simply brilliant. He gives me hope, because without a serious re-adjustment, we're headed for some crazy-bad times here in North America. People start to get very agitated when they can no longer afford to feed their children. XX :D

  2. Let's ban ships. Oh no wait they bring things for poor people. Ahhhhh fuck. Ok can we ban rich people instead? Oh crap they create wealth. Can nothing go right?!

    1. Imagine what would happen if even half of the manufacturing we have outsourced to China were instead done here. Boom. Fewer ships and a better local economy.

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    3. And I'm sorry, but seventy thousand dollars in the pockets of every employee does a Fuck of a lot more for the economy than does a million dollars in the offshore bank account of a single CEO. Common sense is very rare these days.

  3. Sorry that was a bit childish

    1. Lol! It's all good. Thank you. :)
      Everybody holds their beliefs dear, so it's always a challenge to approach change. But there is a shedload of evidence that the whole "trickle down economics" thing is absolute nonsense. And it is abundantly clear that the disparity between rich and poor is causing nothing but trouble. Something has GOT to give. The Arab Spring will look like child's play soon unless we embrace change willingly, and that's why men like Mr Price are such a beacon of hope.

  4. Ms. Babble sharpening her pitchfork!

    I love the "please refrain from attempting to clean up the spill..." (in other words, get used to it, it is going to become a common thing...).

    I am aghast at the amount of over-eye-wool-pulling the gov is doing with regards to the spill and the closure of the CG Station. I would think they would score points if they were like "yes, balls were dropped and mistakes were made..." Let's face it, you really can't keep info (i.e. the truth) hidden for so long now in this multi media digital age. And in your piece, real deal guys who know are spelling it out. I'm sure there's even more to it!


    1. $700,000/yr is all it would have cost to keep that station open. The price of ONE of those fucking smart bombs we are dropping in Syria, a place we have no legal right to be.

      Our PM promised accountability, and yet all we get is lies. He promised economic strength, and yet he insisted on an oil based economy despite the obvious truth that we need to plan for the future, which simply can NOT depend on fossil fuels. I hate what they are doing to this country. It is nothing less than a criminal organisation.

  5. Babble,

    Thanks for another fascinating/informative posting! And, with fellows like Dan Price, maybe there really IS hope for a saner future? Maybe. I really do not know what it will take to bring the “industrially developed” populations to their senses. // I ride the bike over to a local coffee cafĂ© in my sweet little central California town, sit by the window overlooking a busy intersection, and observe car after car after car* - each carrying a single occupant - the driver. (*All slowly rolling through the stop sign, as Snob has peevishly pointed out.) But, WTF? Very few walkers. Even fewer bike riders. In a town in which EVERYTHING is…easily “walking distance”. It is utterly beyond comprehension. Insane! People! Get out of your fucking cars! WALK!


    1. Thank you, Old-Timer. You are very kind. :)
      Funny, cause our "extract all of the oil at all costs" government finally released the budget on Earth day, and they promised to invest in transit infrastructure,(if and only if we re-elect them), claiming that 60% of our carbon footprint is because of emissions, not extraction. But it's a chicken and egg sort of thing, isn't it? Right now, nobody thinks twice about getting into their car - alone - and commuting to work day after day. If they were charged a premium to drive as an individual in their car, maybe things would change. In London, right before we left in early 2007, they began congestion charging, so that every car entering the center of the city had to pay a fee. It certainly worked to change the habits of the daily commuter. Money speaks.

  6. You touched three things close to my heart:
    Say what you're told to say, profit over environment, and the widening pay gap.
    I didn't do the first and was pushed out of the best job I had. What was most disappointing was the number of people who did as they were told. Things don't stay the same, while I was shitted right off, it was time to move on. I see that now looking back.
    And, I rode to work today despite the cold and dark :)
    16km each way.. hard core !

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    2. Woooo Hoooo! Good onya!! I used to ride through the winter in Edmonton, Alberta, and was surprised at how many people with mountain ski hill tags on their jackets would wonder how I could survive the cold. :-l Funny, cause Snobbydoobydoo wrote about bikecycle air conditioning today, and I always find those little contraptions pointless. One of the things I love about riding in the heat is the way that the combination of movement and a bit of a sweat actually work to cool the body down. And - as you know! - just so long as you're dressed appropriately, the very act of cycling in the cold will warm you up, even if you're moving at a good clip. Which is why people can skil in alpine conditions in the dead of winter without succumbing to hypothermia. Having said that, it sure matters that you keep your fingers and toes warm.

      And OMG I despair at the lies our leaders feed us on a daily basis. My friend who is an investigator who now turns down a fair few interviews these days, because he refuses to tow the party line, and recite the BS scripts written for him. He has been doing his job for over twenty five years, is highly respected across the province, and can not bring himself to lie for the good of the party. (What did Stephen Colbert call those kinds of scripts? Truthiness?) Fortunately, my friend has enough years of service behind him that he could retire if necessary, and with his level of credibility, earned with decades of credibility and truth, the department needs him more than he needs it, so he can stand up to that "code of lies" from a position of strength. Not a lot of people have that sort of leverage.

      Sigh. Earth Day and since the day was instituted in the 1970's the human population has doubled, whilst the number of other plant and animal species has halved. We are in the middle of the sixth great Mass Extinction Event, and it is entirely of our own making. I just don't understand how we can be so stupid. Our children have the right to inherit a living planet, and yet our blinding greed is insuring that they won't. Do we all NEED a car? Fuck, no. Do we need the latest, greatest mobile phone? Again, how ridiculous. The plants and animals we have eliminated had a right to be here, too. What ever are we going to do?! We do, in fact, have the technology to move to a completely sustainable economy within twenty years, and it wouldn't end up costing anything more than our current financial outlay, either. All we lack is the political will to do so, and yet we are so far from that place that it is unlikely that we will make the necessary changes before it's too late and climate change becomes catastrophic. Though we may well have already fallen over that bleak edge.

      Sorry. Feeling mighty dark today... thanks for your feedback, Mr Neal. It always cheers me to hear from you. xo

    3. Maaan! Apparently I can't proofread in my dark state,... sigh. :-/

    4. Yep, fingers,toes and ears. It doesn't get 'really' cold here. Zero (C) is cold these days and it rarely gets down there. When I was a kid doing a paper round it would often be below zero but only to -4 or so.
      Unfortunately the number of people who will "do what it takes" outweigh the ones with a conscience. At least at the level where all the "tough decisions" are made (there's a story in that too)... Most people with a conscience, and awareness, get pushed aside, if they don't move aside on their own.
      No riding today, but I am probably going to pick up a new frame tonight :) Because 7, or 10... isn't enough ! This one might be better...

    5. I hear you! Just one more bike... :)

      I heard that the weather service has had to add another colour to their legend because the high end of temperature has moved up an order of magnitude Down Undah. I can't imagine what it would be like to spend time in a place that sees temperatures upward of 50 degrees celcius regularly, though fortunately for you, that wouldn't be the norm where you live.

      I have friends who moved to Perth from the UK at the same time I moved back to Canada, and they are continually surprised at how hot it gets there... and they live on the coast, not inland where the real heat reigns supreme!

  7. Yikes! First I have heard about this spill. I have been on response to a few US spills and those have been run halfway decently. But waiting that long to get someone on scene is ridiculous!

    1. Yes. It is completely unacceptable, and it was entirely preventable, for the price of ONE of those smart bombs we are illegally dropping on Syria.
      Worse, the government is blatantly lying about it, and most Canadians accept the bullshit as truth. Our government is unbelievably corrupt, and we stooooopid, complacent Canadians Just. Don't. Get. It.

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