Canada: The world’s newest petrostate isn’t playing nice anymore.

Nearly 24 hours of voting, 425 pages of legislation, over 800 proposed amendments: This is the marathon from which Canadian members of parliament (MPs) emerged on June 15. 

The session, characterized by the Globe and Mail as "22-plus hours of consecutive spanking" of the dissenting opposition parties by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative majority government, will allow the government to push through omnibus bill C-38. 

Canadians are up in arms about the bill because it includes legislation that will weaken and threaten the legal status of leading environmental groups.

Because Harper is determined to build a new pipeline out of the Alberta tar sands, the center of Canada's oil industry with known reserves that rival Saudi Arabia's.  And he is not about to wait for November to get it done.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would have funneled Canadian oil down to refineries on the Gulf Coast, remains in political deadlock after the Obama administration blocked the deal in January. 

Incensed by Obama's decision, Harper claimed the pipeline process was being "held hostage" because "certain people in the United States would like to see Canada be one giant national park for the northern half of North America."

In the meantime, Harper's government, as well as impatient oil exporters and Asian markets hungry for Canadian crude, are determined to find new ways out of land-locked Alberta in order to increase oil export volumes.

The New York Times reported on June 14 that the Canadian government has three pipeline route proposals on the table:

"Enbridge, a transporter of Canadian oil exports, announced a $3 billion plan called Eastern Access. It is seeking permission to build a new "Northern Gateway Pipelines" network, to bring 525,000 barrels a day to Canada's Pacific Coast. Kinder Morgan, a Texas-based energy company, said it will nearly double the capacity of an existing pipeline network along a different route."

All of these options will have to overcome staunch opposition by indigenous groups and well-entrenched environmental interests on both coasts.   Which brings us back to the reasoning behind the Conservative government's push to pass the omnibus bill with the intent of weakening these groups' legal footing.

In order to further quell dissent, Harper's government has also been going after anti-pipeline charity and advocacy groups. A variety of groups, including Tides Canada and ForestEthics, have been threatened with having their charity status revoked. Canadian regulations have long maintained that charities cannot devote more thant 10 percent of their budgets to advocacy. Additional laws pushed through as part of the C-38 package "will bring more scrutiny to foreign funding for charities and also how they use money for political purposes. Charities will also have to take more responsibility for the political activities of groups to which they give money."

The government has also insinuated that shadowy foreign entities are responsible for funding charities in their efforts to derail Canada's well-oiled ascendance to the status of petrostate. The Conservatives' new efforts to regulate "transparency" in Canadian charities has gone so far as to alarm large foundations with names like Bronfman, Asper and Bombardier on their letterheads.

Turns out even Canada is not immune to the lure of "black gold."



Genetic testing of far-right Hungarian politician provokes an uproar

If you think running for office in the United States is rigorous, then you haven't met Hungary's far-right Jobbik party. After the April 2010 legislative elections that handed the extremist group 47 seats in the national assembly -- and before local elections that fall -- an unnamed Jobbik MP made a special effort to gain the upper hand by undergoing genetic testing "to ensure he did not have a Roma or Jewish ethnic background." The lab results were published by a Hungarian far-right website in May. According to the report from medical diagnostic company Nagy Gen, the MP, whose name was blacked out, has "No genetic trace of Jewish or Roma ancestors."

The company, which faces a criminal investigation for violating the country's Law on Genetics, "examined 18 positions in the MP's genome" for supposedly Jewish and Roma variants, but Joerg Schmidtke, president of the European Society of Human Genetics, criticized the company:

"This is a gross distortion of the values of genetic testing.... In addition, the test proves nothing; it is impossible to deduce someone's origins from testing so few places of the genome."

Jobbik is the third-largest party in Hungary's parliament, and is known for its anti-Semitic and anti-Roma platform. European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor found the racial purity test a cause for immediate concern:

"This test demonstrates a very troubling escalation by the Jobbik party ... into a genetic and racial ideology that appears to be a short step below a fully-fledged Nazi worldview."

The icing on the cake, though, is the fact that three-time Olympic water polo champion Tibor Benedek, a member of a prominent Jewish family, held a minority financial stake in the Nagy Gen, but he pulled out immediately after the report was published.

It's good to know that racial purity is making a comeback, but if the testing was truly unprofessional, it's entirely possible we may have another Vladimir Zhinirovsky on our hands.