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Archive for July, 2012

FOOD: LET’S GET LOCAL

Posted by strattof on July 26, 2012

WHERE IN THE WORLD DOES MY FOOD COME FROM?

The average Canadian meal travels 3,000 kilometres to get from field to plate. Here’s how far items purchased at a supermarket in Regina are likely to have travelled:

FOOD ITEM/ LIKELY SOURCE/ DISTANCE TRAVELLED

Roasting Chicken / Winnipeg / 573 km

Steak / Calgary / 753 km

Potatoes / Idaho / 1,445 km

Lettuce  /  California /  2,792 km

Cooking Onions / Georgia, US /  3,234 km

Green Onions / Mexico /  3,360 km

Bananas / Ecuador /  6,292 km

8 REASONS TO EAT LOCALLY

1. Local food tastes better because it is fresher. Produce purchased at the supermarket has been in transit or cold-storage for days or even weeks.

2. Local food is healthier because it is more nutritious. It is also likely to have less, or no toxic additives.

3. Buying local food contributes to the local economy and helps Saskatchewan farmers stay in business. We need to keep our food dollars in our local community, rather than increasing the profits of distant, destructive corporations.

4. Local food is fairer to farmers and farm animals. In the industrial food system, both workers and animals live in horrible conditions.

5. Local food is very good for the environment. Transporting food long distances by road and air freight increases the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. In North America today, food and agriculture account for more than a quarter of the goods transported by road. Food is now also the largest component of airfreight, the most polluting form of transportation. Studies show that replacing enough imported food items with those locally grown can reduce household greenhouse gas emissions by a quarter of a tonne annually.

6. Local food systems are safer and more sustainable. Following his visit to Canada in May 2012, the Special UN Rapporteur on the Right to Food had this to say about Canadian agricultural policies: “Since the 1950s, Canada has been moving to large-scale, input-intensive modes of production, leading to increasingly unsustainable farming practices and higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions, soil contamination, and erosion of biodiversity….A thriving small-scale farming sector is essential to local food systems….These systems can deliver considerable ecological and health benefits by increasing access to fresh and nutritious foods.”  

7. Buying local food helps to forge a strong relationship between eater, grower, and the earth.  It reminds us where our food actually comes from and who produces it and how.

8. Buying local food is liberating. It frees us from our dependence on the industrial food system–corporations who are only interested in the health of their bottom line.

TAKE ACTION

SHOP AT THE FARMERS’ MARKET– and come away smiling.  

May 5–October 12, 2012: Wednesday and Saturday, 9:30 am–1:30 pm, City Square Plaza, 12th Avenue and Scarth Street.

October–December & March–April: Saturday, 9:30 am–1:30 pm:  Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre, 2900-13th Avenue:

Learn more about the Farmers’ Market: by going to: http://www.reginafarmersmarket.ca/

ASK FOR LOCALLY GROWN PRODUCE AT YOUR REGULAR SUPERMARKET – even when they don’t have it. If there is enough customer demand, supermarkets will begin to stock locally grown food.

GET INVOLVED IN COMMUNITY GARDENS – and grow your own food. “Only by growing some food for yourself can you become acquainted with the beautiful energy cycle that revolves from soil to seed to flower to fruit to food to offal to decay, and around again”–Wendell Berry. To find out about the community gardens in your area, google “Regina community gardens.” Grow Regina also has a very helpful website: http://growregina.ca/

IF YOU HAVE A LAWN, DIG IT UP AND PLANT VEGETABLES. Lawns are a waste of water and good soil. Besides, it is now fashionable to grow vegetables on your front lawn. Talk to your neighbours as you garden.  

DEMAND PROVINCIAL SUPPORT FOR SMALL FAMILY FARMS, equal to the massive support given to industrial agriculture.

DEMAND PROVINCIAL INCENTIVES TO FARMERS TO SWITCH TO ORGANIC = a better economic future for farmers, better health and food security for citizens, and lower healthcare costs for the province.

F  O  O  D

To the tune of My Grandfather’s Clock

Lyrics by the Raging Grannies

We’ll care for the soil as it cares for us

Giving food through all our life long.

We’ll care for the worms and waters as they work

In harmony like a song.

No toxic chemicals poisoning the land

No erosion from water and wind.

But stop, look, and daily give thanks

To all creatures of Earthour kin.

We’ll eat of the food that is grown right here

As the seasons roll around.

We’ll support local farmers as they nourish us

Drawing health from our native ground.

Less exotic fruits from far-away climes.

Less out-of-season veg on our plate.

But stop, look, and daily give thanks

To our farmers. For warm days we can wait.

 

Remember the workers who toil far away,

Their land robbed to grow treats for us.

Remember the pesticides wrecking their health

For our perfect-looking food. Is that just?

No more food transports pounding down our roads

Polluting the air and the land.

But stop, think of the cost to the Earth.

Let’s buy what grows close at hand.

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STOP THE STADIUM!

Posted by strattof on July 22, 2012

W E   W A N T  A F F O R D A B L E   H O U S I N G

The City of Regina has its priorities upside down. Regina is in the midst of a housing crisis, yet all city officials can think of is a new football stadium.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding the City has signed with the provincial government and the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the total cost of the stadium will be $675 million. Of this amount, at least $300 million will be taxpayers’ money.

Regina already has a perfectly serviceable football stadium. Why tear it down–especially after it has been refurbished to the tune of $14 million for the 2013 Grey Cup?

The new stadium is part of the Regina Revitalization Initiative. Both city and provincial officials will tell you this plan includes affordable housing. But it does not.

What the plan calls for is “up to 700 new affordable, market-rate housing units.” “Affordable, market-rate housing” is an oxymoron. As everyone knows, the market-rate for housing in Regina is anything but affordable.

REGINA’S HOUSING CRISIS: 10 KEY FACTS

1. Regina’s apartment vacancy rate is the lowest in Canada, according to the spring 2012 report of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. It is 0.6%, which essentially means there is no rental accommodation available in the city.

2. Average rent in Regina increased 5.5% from April 2011, well beyond the rate of inflation.

3. In 2010, over 3,400 people used one or more of the city’s shelter services. Many others double-bunked, couch-surfed, or lived in overcrowded unhealthy conditions. These latter groups could easily double the number of homeless people in Regina.

4. Homeless shelter use in Regina rose by 44.5% between 2006 and 2010.

5. 83% of shelter users were unable to find a home to live in after leaving the shelter in 2010.

6. The number of apartments in Regina decreased by 260 between October 2009 and 2011. Over the period, many apartment buildings were converted to condominiums. Apartment buildings also continue to be lost to demolition. 

7. The average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in Regina is $817, an increase of $47 (5.8%) a month from the previous year.

8. Individuals working a 40-hour work week at minimum wage ($9.50 per hour) spend 49.5% of their before-tax income on rent for a one bedroom apartment. “Affordable housing,” as defined by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, is 30% or less of a household’s before-tax income.

9. A cashier earning $1,811.30 per month cannot afford a one bedroom apartment in Regina. Nor can a security guard earning $2,031.43 per month or a food services supervisor earning $2,395 per month.

10. Many Regina citizens have to choose between paying the rent and buying food. 20,655 people used a food bank in Saskatchewan in 2011.

SOLVING REGINA’S HOUSING CRISIS

Ask City Council to do something about Regina’s affordable housing crisis, and the response is always “Housing is not a municipal responsibility.” This is not a helpful reply. While City Council cannot solve all of Regina’s housing problems, there are many things it can do to alleviate Regina’s housing crisis:

  • If City council can spend $300 million worth of public money on a new stadium, it can spend $300 million on affordable housing.

HOW MANY AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS CAN WE GET FOR ONE STADIUM?

At a cost of $150,000 per unit, $300 million will get us,

2,000 affordable housing units.

  • City Council can adopt a Housing First plan, as so many other Canadian cities have done. This approach to homelessness addresses the problem by providing people with permanent homes and the support they require to keep them. In 2011, in its second year of implementation, Edmonton’s Housing First plan secured 956 permanent homes for 1,352 people who had been homeless. In that same year, the number of Edmontonians staying in homeless shelters dropped by 23%.
  • City Council can require developers to include a certain number of affordable housing units in their plans or to pay a fee into an affordable housing account.
  • City Council can pass bylaws to protect rental housing. City Council is to be commended for having already passed one such bylaw, the condominium conversion bylaw prohibiting condo conversions when the city’s vacancy rate is below 2%.
    City Council claims it is powerless to do anything to stop apartment block demolitions. This is not true. City Council could pass a demolition bylaw prohibiting the demolition of apartment blocks until the supply and availability of rental housing returns to a healthy state. Toronto has had such a bylaw since 2007.
     

    THE HOUSING SONG (To the tune of Daisy, Daisy)

    Housing, housing,

    Give us more, please do!

    We’re half crazy

    All for the lack of you.

    The situation’s deplorable.

    We have no housing that’s affordable.

    We don’t need a stadium.

    We already have one.

    Affordable housing, we need you!

Posted in justice, peace activism | 5 Comments »

WHAT IS WRONG WITH FRACKING

Posted by strattof on July 22, 2012

Fracking – the word is short for hydraulic fracturing – is a technology used to extract natural gas from rock formations, such as shale. Millions of litres of water, chemicals, and sand are blasted underground in order to create fractures or cracks in the rock, through which gas can escape and flow up the well.   

The oil and gas industry maintains that fracking poses no danger to the environment or human health. However, a growing number of scientific studies show it creates many risks.  

As a result of these studies, both the State of Vermont and the Province of Quebec have banned fracking. Many communities across the US and Canada are demanding similar bans.

The Government of Saskatchewan, on the other hand, is encouraging fracking companies to start projects in the province. Drilling is already underway in the southeast corner of our province.

4 REASONS WHY FRACKING SHOULD BE BANNED

#1 Fracking contaminates water wells and groundwater.

Fracking requires the injection of between 55,000 and 220,000 litres of chemicals ino a well under high pressure. The fracking industry claims the cement casings they put in the wells keep the chemicals out of wells and groundwater.

However, the industry refuses to reveal the chemicals used in the process, saying it is a trade secret.  

In 2011, the US Environmental Protection Agency released its first thorough study of the effects of fracking on drinking water. Conducted in the Wyoming town of Pavilion, which is near a fracking operation, the study concluded that the presence in the water of synthetic compoiunds, such as glycol ethers, were “the result of direct mixing of hydraulic fracking fluids with ground- water.”  Residents were told to stop drinking water from their wells.

CHEMICALS USED IN THE FRACKING PROCESS include

Tetramethylammonium Chloride ●Benzene  ●Toluene ●Glycol Ethers ●Methanol ●Naphthalene

 A study by Dr Theo Colborn, with the Endocrine Disrupting Exchange, shows that

25% of the chemicals used in the fracking process can cause cancer.  

46% can do damage to the cardiovascular system and blood.

52% can harm the nervous system.

For further information, go to http://digitaljournal.com/article/297727

The fracking process can also cause naturally occurring methane to migrate to drinking water sources. This is the flaming tap water phenomenon, highlighted in the documentary film Gasland and  the CBC documentary Burning Water. Residents living near fracking operations are able to light their tap water on fire.

# 2 Fracking contaminates rivers and streams–and hence the water supply for homes and industries.

Much of the chemical-laced water injected down a well will stay underground. However, 20-40% will be regurgitated back to the surface, bringing with it the chemicals it included in the first place, along with traces of oil and other material trapped in the rock: iron, chromium, radium, and salt. The question is what to do with this volume of bad water. The oil and gas industry has not come up with a satisfactory answer. In the meantime, this noxious wastewater keeps getting into streams and rivers.

#3 Fracking causes air pollution and earthquakes.

  • Fumes rising from fracked wells and wastewater pits pollutes the air. Wyoming, for example, no longer meets federal air quality standards because of fumes seeping from the state’s 27,000 wells, vapours that contain benzene and tuluene.
  • The UK has suspended fracking after a firm admitted its project had caused a number of minor tremors. Fracking has also been suspended in Fayetteville Arkansas, where work has been accompanied by a notable increase in earthquakes. According to Ohio state officials, a 4.0 earthquake in 2011 was caused by deep injection wells where wastewater produced from fracking was kept.

#4 A reliance on fracked natural gas will hinder global efforts to cope with climate change.

When burned, natural gas produces about half as much carbon dioxide as coal. However, natural gas–CH2–in its unburned state is a very powerful greenhouse gas itself, many times stronger than CO2.

Abundant and cheap natual gas will make it that much harder to get  truly low-carbon sources of power, such as sun and wind, up and running on a large scale.

According to a 2011 International Energy agency projection, if we don’t take action on climate change, the average termperature of the earth’s surface will rise 3.5 degrees Celsius, far highter than all the experts believe is safe.

A recent Environics Resarch poll found that 62% of Canadians support “a moratorim on all fracking for natural gas until all the federal environmental reviews are complete.” In Saskatchewan the percentage of people opposing fracking was even higher: 64%.

TAKE ACTION

SOURCES AND RESOURCES

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NO STADIUM! WE WANT AFFORDABLE RENTAL HOUSING

Posted by strattof on July 5, 2012

The City of Regina has its priorities upside down. Regina is in the midst of a housing crisis, yet all city officials can think of is a new football stadium.

And they want $149.4 million worth of taxpayers’ money to be spent on it:

  • $60.6 million from the City’s own coffers;
  • $80 million from the provincial treasury;
  • $8.8 million from Ottawa. 

Regina already has a perfectly serviceable football stadium. Why tear it down–especially after it has been refurbished to the tune of $14 million for the 2013 Grey Cup?

The new stadium is part of the Regina Revitalization Initiative. Both city and provincial officials will tell you this plan includes affordable housing. But it does not.

What the plan calls for is “up to 700 new affordable, market-rate housing units.” “Affordable, market-rate housing” is an oxymoron. As everyone knows, the market-rate for housing in Regina is anything but affordable.

REGINA’S HOUSING CRISIS

10 KEY FACTS

 1. Regina’s apartment vacancy rate is the lowest in Canada, according to the spring 2012 report of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. It is 0.6%, which essentially means there is no rental accommodation available in the city.

2. Average rent in Regina increased 5.5% from April 2011, well beyond the rate of inflation.

3. In 2010, the latest year for which figures are available, over 3,400 people used one or more of the city’s shelter services. Many others double-bunked, couch-surfed, or lived in overcrowded unhealthy conditions. These latter groups could easily double the number of homeless people in Regina.

4. Between 2006 and 2010, homeless shelter use in Regina rose by 44.5%.

5. In 2010, 83% of shelter users were unable to find a home to live in after leaving the shelter.

6. Between October 2009 and October 2011, the number of apartments in Regina decreased by 260. Over the period, many apartment buildings were converted to condominiums. Apartment buildings also continue to be lost to demolition. 

7.  The average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in Regina is $817, an increase of $47 (5.8%) a month from the previous year.

8. Assuming a 40-hour work week for 4.34 weeks a month, individuals earning the minimum wage of $9.50 an hour would spend 49.5% of their before-tax income on rent for a one bedroom apartment. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines “Affordable Housing” as costing a household 30% or less of its before-tax income.

9. A cashier earning 1,811.30 per month cannot afford a one bedroom apartment in Regina. Nor can a security guard earning $2,031.43 per month or a food services supervisor earning $2,395 per month.

10. Many Regina citizens have to choose between paying the rent and buying food. 20,655 people used a food bank in Saskatchewan in 2011.

SOLVING REGINA’S HOUSING CRISIS

Ask City Council to do something about Regina’s affordable housing crisis, and the response is always “Housing is not a municipal responsibility.” This is not a helpful reply. While City Council cannot solve all of Regina’s housing problems, there are many things it can do to alleviate Regina’s housing crisis:

  • Although it only got $80 million, City Council asked the provincial government for $208.8 million for a football stadium. Why can’t it ask the provincial government for $208.8 million for affordable housing?
  • City Council can put all of the public money earmarked for a new stadium (currently $149.4 million) into affordable housing.

HOW MANY AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS CAN WE GET FOR ONE STADIUM?  At a cost of $150,000 per unit, $149.4 million will get us 996 affordable housing units.

  • City Council can adopt a Housing First plan–as so many other Canadian cities have done. Housing First is an approach to homelessness which sees the first step in solving the problem as being to provide people with permanent homes and the support they require to keep them. Figures from Edmonton indicate what can be achieved by a Housing First plan. In 2011, two years into its implementation, 956 permanent homes had been secured for 1,352 people who had been homeless. The number of Edmontonians staying in homeless shelters had dropped by 23%.
  • City Council can require developers to include a certain number of affordable housing units in their plans or to pay a fee into an affordable housing account.
  • City Council can pass bylaws to protect rental housing. ●City Council is to be commended for having already passed one such bylaw, the condominium conversion bylaw prohibiting condo conversions when the city’s vacancy rate is below 2%. ●However, City Council claims it is powerless to do anything to stop apartment block demolitions. But there is nothing stopping City Council from passing a demolition bylaw prohibiting the demolition of apartment blocks until the supply and availability of rental housing returns to a healthy state. Toronto has had such a bylaw since 2007.

THE HOUSING SONG

(To the tune of A Bicycle Built For Two)

Housing, housing,

Give us more, please do!

We’re half crazy

All for the lack of you.

The situations deplorable.

We have no housing that’s affordable.

We don’t need a stadium.

We already have one.

Affordable housing, we need you!

TAKE ACTION

Phone Mayor Fiacco and sing him the Housing Song. Also give him some facts about Regina’s housing crisis–see page 2 of this pamphlet. Convey the same message to your City Councillor.

Mayor Pat Fiacco: 777-7339

Ward 1, Louis Browne: 531-5151

Ward 2, Jocelyn Hutchinson: 584-1739

Ward 3, Fred Clipsham: 757-8212

Ward 4, Michael Fougere: 789-5586

Ward 5, John Findura: 536-4250

Ward 6, Wade Murray: 522-8683

Ward 7, Sharron Bryce: 949-5025

Ward 8, Mike O’Donnell: 545-7300

Ward 9, Terry Hinks: 949-9690

Ward 10, Chris Szarka: 551-2766

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CANADA DAY 2012 QUIZ

Posted by strattof on July 1, 2012

(Answers at end)

 1. What historically important event took place in Regina on July 1 1935?

2. What is the longest war Canada has ever been engaged in?

a) World War I          b) World War II          c) Afghanistan

3. Children who attend school on reserves receive 30% less funding for education than other Canadian children.

True or False

4. How many Canadian children live in poverty?

a) 50,000-100,000     b) 200,000-300,000     c) 600,000-700,000

5. What % of Canada’s pre-tax income goes to the wealthiest 1% of Canadians?

a) 5%                         b) 8%               c) 13%

6. Regina has the lowest apartment vacancy rate in Canada.  

True or False

7. How much will the federal government’s “tough on crime” legislation cost Canadians?  

8. On the 2012 Climate Change Performance Index, Canada ranks

a) 7th out of 60                 b) 27th out of 60          c) 54th out of 60

9. The federal government provides an annual subsidy of approximately $1 billion to the tar sands industry.

True or False

10. Which of the following statements are true?

a) On average, 3 workers per day lose their lives to workplace accidents in Canada.   

b) The unemployment rate for First Nations people is roughly double the rate for non-Aboriginals.

b) Saskatchewan’s minimum wage is the 3rd lowest in Canada.

d) All of the above.

11. Match each quotation with its author:

a) Be the change you want to see in the world.

b) You can bomb the world to pieces but you can’t bomb the world to peace.

c) War cannot be humanized; it can only be abolished.

d) When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.

e) Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

Albert Einstein             Michael Franti           Jimi Hendrix

Martin Luther King     Mahatma Gandhi     

12. How do you stop strips of Canadian bacon from curling in the frying pan?

QUIZ ANSWERS

1. The Regina Riot: The riot began when the Regina police and the RCMP charged a crowd made up mainly of Regina citizens who had come out to show their support for the On-To-Ottawa Trekkers, unemployed single men who had ridden box cars from Vancouver, determined to take their demand for real work and fair wages to Ottawa. Charles Millar, an undercover policeman was killed in the riot, and Nick Schaack, a Trekker, died later in hospital from head injuries. The police denied any Trekkers had been killed. Schaack was buried in an unmarked grave in the Regina Cemetery. On July 1 2011, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour installed a commemorative headstone for Nick Schaack.    

2. c): At 10 years and counting, Canada’s longest war goes on until at least 2014, with about 1,000 troops still in harm’s way, supporting a failed war strategy that will cost our country billions of dollars, to say nothing of the cost in human life–Canadian, Allied, and Afghan.  

3. True: In 1996, the federal government imposed a 2% growth cap on all Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development funding. The cap has had a particularly harmful effect on education programs.

4. c): In 1989 the House of Commons unanimously resolved to eliminate poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000. Today 639,000 Canadian children, or 1 in 10, live in poverty.

5. c): Since 1980, the wealthiest 1% of Canadians have increased their share of the national income from 8%  to 13%, a shift of $67 billion.  

6. True: Regina’s vacancy rate is 0.6, which essentially means there is no rental housing available in the city. Between 2006 and 2010, homeless shelter use in Regina rose by 44.5%.

7. The federal government estimates its “tough on crime” legislation will cost $2.1 billion over 5 years. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the legislation will cost twice as much. That’s enough to build 18,260 affordable housing units.  Crime rates have been falling in Canada since 1991.

8. c) Canada is one of the top ten CO2 emitters in the world.

9. True: Tar sands development is the single biggest contributor to the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. 

10. d) All of the above.

11. a) Mahatma Gandhi  b) Michael Franti  c) Albert Einstein  d) Jimi Hendrix  e) Martin Luther King

12. Take away their tiny brooms.

Posted in afghanistan, climate, environment, justice, peace activism | 1 Comment »