It’s beginning to look like something serious really is going on behind-the-scenes with the Liberals and NDP. Today, CBC News is reporting that talks are on regarding a possible merger: Liberal-NDP Insiders Talk Merger. Liberal insider Warren Kinsella, former advisor to Jean Chretien, is reported by CBC as saying, "The reality is that we (the Liberals) are in a bad position. Serious people are involved in discussions at a serious level." So, it really does look like the potential of a merger is being investigaed, as per Chretien’s "If it’s doable, do it" sentiment expressed last week.
The merger talks appear to be on, despite the apparent denial by both the Liberal Party and the NDP that talks are taking place. Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal Leader, apparently had slammed the door shut on the possibility of a coalition with the NDP, not to mention to a merger. Why should Ignatieff be honest with Canadians about what’s going on behind closed doors? These parties have never been truly honest with Canadians about what they would do if they formed government, so why start now?
I’m not certain that a merger between the Liberals and NDP would be in the interests of Canadians, but I’m leaving the door open to the possibility that it might be. Certainly, any party being led by Michael "Tar Sands Forever" Ignatieff is, in my books, a non-starter. The Liberal Party of Canada, as currently constituted, has nothing of value to add to the Canadian conversation about the future which we need to engage in...other than to pipe up and say, "We’re not the Stephen Harper Conservatives!", which might be the single valid point they bring to the conversation. Still, that’s not enough.
The NDP, however, occupies a bit of a different location on the spectrum of addressing many of the issues the Liberals and Conservatives both fail to acknowledge as important issues. Certainly the NDP have been far more pro-active on climate change; it was an NDP private-members bill which eventually became the Climate Change Accountability Act, which while still a very flawed piece of legislation (it says little about how Canada will actually achieve the ambitious CO2 reduction targets it sets), is still a step in the right direction. From a policy perspective, the NDP has a lot to offer in terms of framing a conversation about the future.
From an implementation perspective, however, the NDP has traditionally proven itself to be another woeful example of how a mainstream party talks the talk while in opposition, but once in power, all of its ambition goes out of the window. Now, I know that the Federal NDP has never been in power, however it’s Provincial Partners have formed governments in B.C., Ontario, Saskatchewan, and most recently in Nova Scotia. By way of example, all of these Provincial NDP parties say that they believe in democratic renewal and the need to assess changes to our electoral systems, some with a bent towards implementing proportional representation to better elect a parliament which reflects the true will of voters. However, in power, none of these parties have done anything to actually address the democratic deficit (Liberal parties in both B.C. and Ontario held lop-sided referendums, but the NDP hasn’t ever walked their talk).
Further, the NDP continues to be mired in the politics of yesterday. It continues to view our political reality as carefully segmented into discrete issues: the economy; the environment; housing; etc. Although it has started to move in a direction of addressing all issues holistically through interconnected policy proposals (linking housing and poverty, for example, to building better communities), the NDP can’t seem to adequately wrap its head around why it’s important for local solutions to be discussed and implemented around matters which affect individuals. Truly, the NDP remains a party of "big government", looking for big solutions to problems which might better be served by more local initiatives. In the year 2010, to me, this is further evidence that the NDP remains stuck in the politics of the brown economy.
And finally, the NDP is very good with production value. They are a slick political machine, excellent at staying on message. I’m not sure that any government run by Jack Layton would be all that different than Stephen Harper’s in terms of command and control from the centre. The NDP have invested heavily in the sound-bite politics of spin. While one can argue that they’ve also experiences some real electoral successes from such investment, I would suggest that this is not the sort of politics that Canada needs to address the very real issues facing us in the next several decades. Partisan rhetoric and politicking will do little to lay the necessary groundwork to move Canada from a fossil fuel-based economy to a green economy.
If the NDP and the Liberals get their collective acts together before the next election or not remains to be seen. I strongly suspect that they won’t, and I don’t even think that they will have a riding-by-riding agreement not to oppose each other. I do, however, suspect that if the numbers work out after the next election, we could be in for a Liberal-NDP government, likely supported by the Bloc, and potentially by other parties (like the Greens) on an issue-by-issue basis.
However, what might happen if a merger proves to be successful? And how might that impact the Green Party? Of course, the answer to these questions would depend on the resolution of two big issues: what sorts of policies would the "Liberal Democrats" adopt, and who would lead the Party.
Regarding policies, given issues related to timing, the new Liberal Democrats might have to ask Canadians to trust them, while putting out a hasty and vaguely worded platform which would appeal to centre-left voters. Details likely would be filled in later. In many respects, this is where the Liberal Party seems to be headed today anyway: "Trust us, we’ll do well by you. Oh, and we’re not the Harper Conservatives". The Liberal Democrats, however, would be able to add the post-script, "We’ll get our act together in short order, when there’s a little more time, after the election when we form government". Essentially, voters will be asked to cast their ballots based on hope, rather than ideas. Since it’s already been suggested that elections are notoriously poor times to have policy discussions anyway, the Liberal Democrats could certainly pull off winning without saying much about what, exactly, they might do with the power they’re asking Canadians to give to them.
The Leader question is much more relevant. A recent poll has suggested that Jack Layton, or even Bob Rae, would be a much better leader of a united Liberal/NDP government than Ignatieff. Since many Libs want to dump the underperforming Iggy anyway, I just could not see Ignatieff leading a new party. So...what about Jack Layton? I admire Layton, although I wish that he weren’t so slick and would actually address real issues rather than grandstanding. But I would have to think that as part of the Liberal concession, a leader would have to come from their ranks. So, what about Bob?
Now, I understand that Bob Rae has a lot of baggage, both with voters and in his own Party. He might even carry more baggage as a result of a Liberal/NDP merger, as I understand that there are many in the NDP who see him as a turncoat traitor (I wonder why). I don’t know if he would be palatable to a new party, but I think a Liberal Democrat party would be well-served.
Of course, outsiders should also be considered: how about Roy Romanow, or even Dalton McGuinty? McGuinty, in particular, would be well-suited to lead, given his more fiscally-conservative leanings.
Now, what about the Green Party? A Liberal-NDP merger would present both an opportunity and a threat to the Green Party. The threat comes from the notion that the "left" is uniting in an effort to dump Harper, so why should voters turn to the Green Party when the goal is to oust the Conservatives? Don’t discount this threat, as it’s very real. However, I believe that the opportunities for our Party are far greater.
Greens would be able to benefit by making a clear impression with Canadians that our Party offers an even more real alternative between a new form of science and policy-led democracy on the one hand, and partisan politicking on the other. With a platform which outlines what, exactly, voters could expect if they elected Greens, we would likely be ahead of an airy-fairy "vote for us, we’ll figure these things out later" Liberal-NDP merged Party. Further, we could use this opportunity to play up our fiscally-responsible approach to budgeting, including putting a price on carbon (and set out how, exactly, we would do that). Canadians, I would hope, would be able to compare our approaches to that of the other Parties: where we’ve given some thought to doing things, and doing them well and differently, the other parties continue to offer vague promises with little or nothing tangible attached.
Greens need to star thinking about how we would strategically place ourselves should the federal political landscape suddenly shift. As a first priority, we should engage in significant outreach to disenchanted NDP and Liberals, especially those currently in parliament. I’m not suggesting that Stephane Dion would be one of the disenchanted, but his personal politics have always appeared to me to be much closer with our party’s ideology than that of his own. At the very least, we should start courting him and others. And then there are the "blue Liberals" who might not feel at home in a merger with the NDP, and who could see the financially sound policies our Party has on offer.
To take advantage, though, we’ll need to have our Leader due the bulk of the work with sitting MP’s. We need to start outreach at lower levels right now, including at the EDA level in those areas like Sudbury where one or the other of the Liberal or NDP currently have an MP. If those two parties merge, there will be a few upset locals, including some currently nominated candidates, who may have to give up their dreams of parliament in favour of an incumbent from the "other side". Nominated NDP candidates with an environmental bent in particular might make excellent acquisitions. We need to start thinking ahead.
Now, some in the Green Party might think that ending up in bed with the Liberals and NDP would benefit Canada and the environmental movement. They may rationalize that if we added our 10% of the vote share to a United Left movement, the anticipated benefits from ousting Harper would outweigh our lack of involvement, so let’s jump on the bandwagon. To those Greens, I really want to point out that a united Liberal-NDP party would still represent the old way of thinking about politics, and more importantly, thinking about "big government" solutions to the many issues facing Canada today.
A Liberal-Democrat Party would surely remain beholden to the interests of corporate Canada at the expense of being able to move forward with real reform in areas where its needed. The "environment" (whatever that is) would remain a secondary afterthought, while the "economy" (whatever that is) would continue to be placed at the fore-front of policy and legislative initiatives. Instead of looking at the environment and the economy as parts of a wider system, the political culture of both of these to-be-merged parties would continue to lead Canada in a direction which is ultimately not beneficial for Canadians.
In short, if Greens want a green government, we need to encourage voters to cast their ballots for a Green Party. And right now, that’d be us: the Green Party of Canada. It won’t be the Liberal-Democrats.
While I agree that getting rid of the Conservatives would be a wonderful, liberating, and sublime experience, I’m not sure that there is a lot of real benefit with believing that a merged Liberal/NDP would take the real step which need to be taken to address the many issues Canada is facing. Both the Liberals and the NDP are part of the current problem with democracy in this country. I just don’t see how a shot-gun wedding of these two parties could truly be part of a solution.
Posted by Green Party Sudbury at 1:07 PM 0 comments
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Friday, February 5, 2010
Vision Green 2010: A Full-On Assault on the Existing Political Culture of Apathy
Over the past little while, I’ve been reading articles from various mainstream media, and watching journalists on TV lament the current state of affairs amongst Canada’s top parties. Particularly, journalists and pundits have been crying that the major parties lack direction and vision, and really have nothing to offer the Canadian electorate, aside from defining themselves as who they are not. The Liberal Party under Michael Ignatieff’s leadership has particularly been singled out as not really standing for much of anything, except as a Party not led by Stephen Harper. Some have speculated that the Liberal’s lack of direction and vision is the result of a "safe" plan of attack for the next election. The theory goes that Stephane Dion released too much information into the public realm regarding what he would do differently if he were made Prime Minister, which left him open to attacks from the Conservatives. And attack they surely did.
Maybe there is some merit to keeping silent. However, it has been really frustrating to watch the Liberals refrain from speaking out about much of anything, and using non-binding weasel words most often when they do deign to speak. Sure, maybe the pundits have it right, and this is part of an election strategy. But don’t Canadians deserve better?
Jack Layton has been a little more forthcoming with what the NDP would do differently if they formed government, but even these pronouncements leave one scratching their head regarding what the NDP’s true vision of a future Canada is. The NDP under Layton have become a political chameleon, changing their skin when it best suits them. Witness Layton’s decision to have his party support the Harper government on a fall confidence vote, reversing years-long policy of non-support for the benefit of passing a flawed Employment Insurance bill which was but a shadow of what Layton said he’d previously support. Yes, it put off having an election which people didn’t want, but it gave us more of Stephen Harper, a commodity that a lot of us would also rather do without.
The NDP have flip-flopped on all sorts of principled issues, especially those pertaining to climate change. Instead of embracing a form of carbon pricing which experts throughout the world acknowledge as being workable and successful in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the NDP remain opposed to a carbon tax, and have instead embraced an industry-friendly cap and trade scheme which is sure to keep the price of carbon hidden from consumers, and punish the least vulnerable in our society. Even today, the NDP continues to maintain that a carbon tax is the wrong way of pricing carbon; look no further than the attack on the B.C. Liberal’s during the spring provincial election.
No, the NDP don’t offer a whole lot when it comes to vision for this country, but at least they have shown a few of their cards, unlike the Liberals, who may not even be holding any cards.
And if the Liberals and NDP are bad, well, the Conservatives want you to think that you’re living in a fantasy-land where economic recovery will do away with structural deficits, where taxes need never be raised, and only redundant programs are cut. The Conservative’s approach is actually worse than that of the Liberals and NDP: rather than saying next to nothing, they’re selling Canadians a fairy-tale story.
Where, then, is a vision for a realistic future for which Canadians can cast their ballots? If the current way of thinking about elections is to say as little as possible about what your party would do when in power for fear of being skewered by your opponents, or standing up for your principles only when they don’t conflict with polling, or whistling "Don’t Worry, Be Happy", what is a Canadian to do?
Well, keeping true to its principles, and not worrying about being attacked for its vision, yesterday the Green Party of Canada released "Vision Green 2010", a powerful and comprehensive document of where the Greens would take Canada given the opportunity. This updated document addresses issues important to Canadians, putting everything the Greens have to offer on the table, and telling the other Parties to go ahead and find fault. This is not some glossy picture-laden "Red Book" of promises not to be kept; it’s a full-on assault on the current culture of apathy which exists in our Federal system.
Vision Green 2010 calls for over-riding and fundamental changes to Canada based on the shared values of Canadians. For too long, our government has been beholden to special interests who do not have our best interests first and foremost in their minds. We have tolerated environmental, economic and social destruction at the expense of increasing profits. To mitigate, we’ve talked about sustainable development as a "nice to have", rather than a fundamental over-riding principle for decision-making.
The Green Party understands that the course Canada is on is perilous in the extreme, and without fundamental changes to the way in which our government conducts its business, the interests of the majority will never be paramount. Instead, the casino economy created by the biggest and wealthiest players will continue to jeopardize our future and that of our children. Without recognition that there are limits to growth, our current system is headed for disaster. Yet the other political parties aren’t telling you any of this.
I was very pleased to see that some of the updates made to Vision Green are based on the notion that the end of inexpensive fossil fuels is upon us. This is the reality in which we are living; yet you’re not hearing Harper, Layton or Ignatieff discuss peak oil and what that means for our communities, industries and our lifestyle built around a culture of cars. Whether we like it or not, our situation is changing, and we should proactively plan for change, rather than react when it is thrust upon us.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Vision Green 2010 is a heavy read. But it’s also presents an incredibly enlightened and optimistic view of Canada’s future, if only the wherewithal to actually implement these necessary changes could be found. Yes, Greens will undoubtedly be bashed for many of the bold initiatives proposed in Vision Green 2010. Certainly there are those out there who are opposed to change, and who will continue to insist that it doesn’t have to happen. That point of view, however, is not grounded in our current reality, and should be dismissed. So let the dinosaurs bash away.
If the pundits are looking for bold vision and initiative, here it is. Yes, it’s the little Green Party who has the strongest, most comprehensive vision for Canada, and that might surprise many. I hope that more and more people take a look for themselves. I hope that they will see that a bright and sustainable future is within our grasp if we have the courage to initiate truly fundamental changes, starting with our taxation system. Getting the price right, eliminating corporate subsidies for the biggest players, and finally putting a price on pollution, are the starting points to creating a sustainable Canada.
Go and take a look for yourself. Browse through the Table of Contents and find a few issues which are important to you. Take a look and see what Greens would do differently. You may be excited about what you read.
Steve May, CEO Sudbury Federal Green Party Association
Posted by Green Party Sudbury at 8:23 AM 0 comments
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Cap and Trade Concerns: Is This The Best We Can Come Up With?
It was with shock that I read in the Sudbury Star a recent editorial by Sun Media’s Lorrie Goldstein. Now, "shock" isn’t an unusual emotion for me to experience when I start reading Goldstein, but this time the shock was a little different. This time, I found that I had little to disagree with Goldstein on in his editorial "Carbon credits are a scam to be feared".
Goldstein has been a vocal opponents of carbon credits emission trading. His opposition appears to stem from his belief that concerns about climate change are overblown by the "enviro-nuts". He has consistently argued that Canada would be economically disadvantaged if we actually tried to do something about reducing our carbon emissions. He also argues that it’s the biggest polluters, China and the U.S. who should be taking the lead, not Canada.
Goldstein likes to point out what he refers to as the "failure" of the European Emissions Trading Scheme in support of his opposition to carbon trading (what we used to call "cap and trade" not all that long ago). While I’m not ready to agree with Goldstein on this failure (Goldstein believes it has been a failure because global emissions continue to rise), I certainly have to question whether it’s been a success.
Goldstein’s general argument against carbon trading is that market manipulation has the potential to wreak havoc on the entire economy, potentially creating a bubble which could burst, making the current recession look insignificant. Goldstein suggests that it’s the bankers and big businesses who will be the ultimate beneficiaries of a carbon trading scheme, as they would be the ones to primarily profit, while the cost of emissions credits would be passed along to the consumers, who will be the losers.
Consumers will actually lose twice: first, by paying more for just about everything; second, for not actually seeing much in the way of benefit from reduced emissions, because Goldstein believes that the cap will be set so low as to have a negligible impact on reducing emissions (coupled with increased emissions from China and India). Goldstein is also not a big fan of off-sets, as he believes that they’re a complete boondoggle.
Goldstein believes that Canadians should be standing up and calling our government out for even thinking about involving us in such a negligent scam. Not only will global emissions continue to rise, but the economic impacts to Canadian businesses and consumers will be detrimental to our economy.
I think he’s on to something here. In theory, a "cap and trade" carbon emissions scheme would end up reducing emissions, but the cap has to be set high enough. Also, there needs to be clear direction regarding how the funds generated through the purchase of carbon credits are intended to be spent, with the majority going to real offsets (and certainly not to investments in questionable technology, like carbon capture and storage). The offsets have to be real and tangible.
In any event, though, the costs of pricing carbon in this way are going to be passed along to consumers. Sure, we consumers will expect to pay more for the same good or service in the future, but we may not be aware of how much more we ought to be paying. Hence, businesses could use the price of carbon credits as an opportunity to generate more profit, thus hurting consumers even more.
If the cap isn’t high enough, and if the majority of money goes into general revenues, and if the offsets purchased are of questionable value, and if companies are able to hoard credits during years of economic downturn when emissions are down anyway, and if clear pricing on goods and services are provided to consumers and if...
Oh my. There are already a lot of "ifs" there. Since I don’t really trust my government to get any of those "ifs" right, what chance is there on all of them?
Yes, clearly the bankers and big businesses might like the idea of carbon emissions trading. It need not be a threat to their bottom lines, as they may actually be able to take advantage of a scheme to generate revenue. And as those businesses grow along with their profits, will emissions be reduced? I think that the jury is still out on that.
What I do believe is that carbon emissions trading appears to be capitalism’s answer to being seen to be taking action on the environment, while having a positive impact on the bottom-lines of the business community.
I can understand that the Conservatives and Liberals would support this "solution" to address the climate change crisis. What I can’t understand is why the NDP have come out in favour of this particular mechanism as their primary method of reducing carbon emissions. It boggles my mind that the three major parties in Canada believe that this sort of scheme is the best way to price carbon. Well, maybe it is the best way to "price carbon" if the goal is to make money off of pollution. If you really want to reduce emissions, though, surely there must be a better pricing mechanism, no?
Here’s the kicker: even Lorrie Goldstein says that "if our governments are hell bent on putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions, a carbon tax would be better, with 100% of the money returned to taxpayers in income tax cuts."
Hmmm...that sounds very close to the Green Party’s position on taxing carbon. Put a hefty price on carbon emissions (something we don’t like), but pull back on other taxes, particularly income tax (something we want...less tax on our income). So we end up paying more for some goods and services, but we have more money in our pockets to do so. And the best thing is, if we choose to purchase goods and services with less of a carbon footprint, rather than carbon-rich goods and services, we will actually end up with more money in our pockets. Yes, we may have to make some changes to our personal spending habits, but that’s a good thing, because not only will we be helping reduce emissions, we’ll be enriching ourselves in the process.
We pay taxes, in theory, for the greater public good. Why not price goods and services accordingly? If something is bad for the public good, tax it at a higher rate. Right now, with regards to carbon emissions, we’re actually subsidizing them, because we used to believe that they were a net positive on the public good ledger.
Yes, yes, I know: Stephane Dion proposed something like this in the last election, and he was destroyed for it. Of course, we Greens also ran on this policy, and our percentage of the popular vote went up. As the federal Liberals have abandoned this method of carbon pricing, in the next election it appears that only the Greens will be presenting this option to voters.
Canadians should be very concerned about the carbon emissions trading scheme that our major political parties, and governments at the federal and provincial levels have been talking about (not to mention to the U.S.). It seems to me that it’s inevitable that before too long, such a program will be up and running, and our governments will say, "Look at us! We’re serious about fighting climate change!" We will have squandered all sorts of resources and political capital on getting this thing going, with only dubious results to show in a decades worth of time.
Here in Canada, you can certainly expect the oil industry to be exempted from having to participate. In the U.S., the coal lobby is doing all that it can to obtain an exemption for itself. If the biggest polluters are exempt from participation, how can that work to actually reduce emissions? The arguments for exemption, though ("jobs will be lost if no exemptions") will likely win the day under the current configuration in parliament.
Maybe we can get Lorrie Goldstein to endorse us.
Steve May, CEO Sudbury Federal Green Party Association
Posted by Green Party Sudbury at 10:23 AM 0 comments
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Sunday, December 6, 2009
Personal Observations on the Munk Debate Results.
I just wanted to provide a quick update (heavily flavoured with my opinion) of last night’s Munk Debate. If you weren’t able watch, you really missed out on a sensational, entertaining, raucus event. Even I was surprised at the level of passion the debaters showed last night, as well as the level of attacks, some of which were quite personal. For me, that was unexpected.
At the outset of the event, they live audience (where the debate was being held) were polled about the resolution: "That climate change is mankind’s defining crisis, and requires a commensurate response". 61% agreed with the resolution, while 31% disagreed (presumably leaving 8% undecided). 79% of the audience indicated that their opinion could still be changed.
Elizabeth May and George Monbiot were the debaters for the PRO side of the resolution, while Bjorn Lomborg and Nigel Lawson were on the CON side. It looked like Lomborg and Lawson were facing a moderately hostile audience, and would have their work cut out for them.
At this point in the debate (before it began), I turned to the person sitting beside me and expressed my concern about the 61% number. A very recent Harris-Decima poll had come out the day before, asking a quite similar question of the Canadian public at large. Harris-Decima’s results were a little higher than those in attendance: just under 66% of Canadians believed climate change to be our defining crisis.
Maybe the audience wasn’t as "hostile" to the CON side as might be expected.
At the end of the debate, the audience was polled again, in an effort to determine which side "won" the debate, based on changed opinions. The final results: 56% agreed with the resolution, while 44% disagreed (no undecided).
This works out to a change of 5% for those who had "decided" that they agreed with the resolution. The CON side, though, benefited from an overall increase of 13%, which accounts for the 5% shift from the PRO side, and took all 8% of the undecided.
Now, this doesn’t mean that every undecided individual cast their vote for the CON side at the end of the debate; but if they didn’t, there was likely a larger shift in the PRO side numbers. I speculate that’s what happened, but the fact is we’ll never know.
Anyway, the result of the debate is quite clear to me: with the shift to the CON side of 13%, it is clear to me that the CON side is able to boast that they "won" the debate. And boast I’m sure they shall.
Admittedly, had I been one of those polled in the audience, I would have identified my own support for the PRO side, and indicated that my opinion could not be shaken. Watching last night’s debate, my own opinion was only reinforced by the discussions. So do keep in mind my own bias when I say that I’m not sure what debate these 13% were watching to arrive at the conclusion that the CON side presented the better arguments. They did not. And Elizabeth and George did quite a bit to diffuse those arguments, including a fairly personal attack on Bjorn by Elizabeth, which may have been over the top (although her issue with Bjorn’s lack of concern about stimulus spending is a good one: if he’s so damn caught up in these other issues, why hasn’t he been raising a stink about all of this stimulus money being spent which doesn’t address these other big issues? Maybe because it’s "all about" climate change to him after all!).
One thing during the debate struck me as odd (and admittedly, I was viewing this on a webcast, so my observations might not reflect what was really happening). Bjorn received a heck of a lot of applause fairly early on from an audience who was 61% in favour of the Resolution. More than Elizabeth and George received. Maybe there were just a few supporters of Bjorn’s in the audience making a lot of noise, maybe his arguments were having an immediate impact on people’s decision making. I don’t know. And I won’t know.
But what I do know is that the format for obtaining a "winner" in this debate is one which is easily tampered with. Tickets were sold out for this event very quickly. If they were snapped up by CON side supporters, the initial audience vote on the Resolution clearly could have been tainted if the CONs voted PRO, only to reverse themselves on the final vote so that a CON "victory" could result. It’s easy to manipulate. I say this tongue-in-cheek: I’m sure that none of the PRO side supporters would have engaged in such shenanigans.
So, when the climate change deniers trot this result out to bolster their own case, take it with a super-huge grain of salt. The process for obtaining a "winner" was anything but a secure process.
In defence of the Munk Debates, no one associated with the debate ever used the term "winner" or "loser" with reference to this process (at least not that I observed), likely because they understood very well the flaws inherent in the process. Having said that, though, by setting things up this way, clearly one side would be able to "claim victory" over the other. And in last night’s debate, the CONS won it at least one "con" of their own (and I’m not talking about vote-rigging here; I’m talking about the continual con they try to pull over people’s eyes about the science of climate change...which is a much bigger con than having a few a supporters switch their votes).
If you are able, listen to or watch the debate. It really is a must-see. But do expect to experience a fair degree of frustration!
Steve May, CEO Sudbury Federal Green Party Association
Posted by Green Party Sudbury at 3:25 PM 0 comments
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Monday, September 21, 2009
Are Jack Layton and the NDP Getting Ready To Sell-Out Their Values in a Cynical Political Game?
There are early rumblings from all corners that the NDP may be getting read to support Stephen Harper’s Conservative government from being defeated later this month, either through a vote on a ways and means bill currently scheduled for later this week, or later this month when the Liberals are likely to call for a vote on a confidence motion. It would come as a personal shock to me if Jack Layton and the NDP do not use one or both of these opportunities (particularly the confidence motion) to defeat the Harper government, given the NDP’s track record of opposing Stephen Harper at every opportunity. And quite rightly, I might add, particularly given the NDP’s ideology, which is completely out of synch with the Conservatives.
But there are signs that Jack may be willing to support Stephen Harper for a very, very low price indeed: EI Reform.
Now look, I’m not suggesting that EI reform isn’t an important issue, because it is, and certainly reform is needed. What I am suggesting is that the Conservative government of Canada remains a menace to the future of this nation, and that’s something that Jack Layton and I have agreed upon wholeheartedly...up until now. How on earth, I have to wonder, will Jack justify propping up the Conservatives at the price of EI reform, while ignoring the lack of action which Harper will be taking on so many issues which are of importance to Canadians?
Even just this past weekend, Layton laid down a number of items which would need to be addressed by Harper should the Conservatives look to the NDP for support on. The media and pundits alike universally panned this list, insisting that Conservatives would have no stomach for it. I wasn’t all that impressed with it either, as the calls for credit card reform and green job creation really seemed pretty wishy-washy to me. And that’s when I began to get nervous that the NDP was once again selling itself out for short term gains, just as they did when they helped defeat Paul Martin’s government.
Yes, for Jack Layton, it’s to be "politics as usual". He’ll prop up whichever party is in power to buy himself some time, because his own Party apparently isn’t ready to face the Canadian electorate, as they really have nothing new on offer. Sure, it’s true that Canadians don’t want another election, and I have to respect acceptable efforts where parties figure out ways to work with one another for the good of Canada. But the price the NDP may be settling on here is not in Canada’s interests, and really tells us all a lot about the NDP.
My main issue with the New Democratic Party is that the Party really stands for very little. They will bend in the slightest political wind, looking for political opportunity at every opportunity. They present their uncosted platforms with slick marketing, rather than with careful consideration. They look to fooling to electorate, rather than working for Canadians. They are not a party of action, but they are a party of results: results defined in the electoral success of their party.
(I’ll avoid a significant rant here on the NDP’s continuing desire to prop up the brown economy and refusing to walk the talk on the environment; please just take that as a given for now)
In short, this kind of thinking by the NDP, this political game-playing, led me to joining the Green Party, which, as far as I can gather, actually has some integrity and will stand up for what it believes in. Since we also don’t seem to possess the political acumen to play the sorts of political games the other party’s play at, I have high hopes that we Greens will never find ourselves in these same silly situations.
Look, I don’t want an election either. I sincerely hope that the other Parties figure a way to get their act together and actually get down to doing the job that we elected them to do, that being governing our nation. What I can not accept, however, are these cynical ploys by the NDP to pretend to be doing Canadians some good by propping up a government which they have claimed on so many past occasions to have irreconcilable differences with. And as I said, up until now, I’ve found myself in agreement with the NDP on this.
Jack Layton will pay a price within his own Party if he decides to lend his support to the Conservatives for such a low price. Sure, some Canadians will be relieved that we’ll have avoided another election (or at least put it off until February or so), but true NDP ideologues will realize that Jack’s support is simply a power play. Some might applaud because it will buy the NDP time to organize. But many, already disenchanted with the "politics as usual" tenor within the NDP will recognize this as a cynical political ploy.
The NDP can do better than this. If they can’t, or don’t, it will certainly be time for many of the NDP’s supporters to turn to a party which is focussed on taking action, rather than playing politics. It is time for them to vote Green.
Steve May, CEO Sudbury Federal Green Party Association
Posted by Green Party Sudbury at 9:55 AM 1 comments
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Monday, August 31, 2009
W Minus 40: A Golden / Green Opportunity for us to Seize!
Some interesting news from one of my least-favourite polling companies, Harris-Decima (least favourite only because Green Party numbers tend to be lower in their polls, not necessarily because I have any concerns with the nature of their polling). Sunday’s Globe and Mail reports that Canadians are not in a mood to have environmental issues trumped by the need to prop up our economy. I find this interesting, although not particularly surprising, as it has seemed to me that the mood of Canadians has changed in the past couple of years when it comes to the environment. Certainly, there has been a growing sophistication and understanding that we need to start taking action to address the growing climate crisis.
The other interesting news out of Harris-Decima are results from a poll released August 20, 2009, in which it is reported that a majority of Canadians want to see Elizabeth May become a Member of Parliament, and want to see the Green Party play a more important role in Canadian politics. This poll in particular is really exciting to me, although again I can’t say that I’m surprised with its outcome. I’m excited, though, that the topic itself was interesting enough for Harris-Decima to look into (even if it was during the dog-days of August).
I’ve seen Elizabeth May’s name mentioned in the media a little bit more lately, which has largely been a good thing. Even today’s story in the Globe and Mail about Elizabeth’s eyeing a so-called "winnable" seat in B.C. emphasized some of the positive aspects of our Party, including the grass-roots democratic notion that even the Leader can be challenged in a local riding for the candidacy. The more these sorts of stories are shared with Canadians, the better our Party will look to those concerned about the state of our democracy. Indeed, coverage of this sort, supported by polls, will only lend legitimacy to our Party during the next election, and to Elizabeth May’s call to be included in the televised Leader’s debate. While I do not agree with Stuart Hertzog's decision to campaign for the candidacy in SGI at this time, I respect that in our Party, he has every right to do so.
In the run-up to Copenhagen, we will start to see more media coverage with environmental messages. As candidates become nominated throughout Canada, Greens have an opportunity to share messaging about the environment and the economy with local media who are interested in discussing how environmental issues might play out in our local communities. Let’s make a concerted effort to introduce our local candidates to local media, and offer the local media our own expertise should the need for a quote, comment, or op-ed piece arise.
Keep in mind that the International Day of Climate Action is taking place on October 24, 2009 (a Saturday). This might be another date to mark on calendars, to be used to engage local media and introduce candidates to the electorate (if we’re not already in an election), or to reinforce Green Party messages (should we be in the midst of an election campaign).
As the dog-days of summer are wearing thin, and people’s minds begin to slowly turn to the serious issues facing our nation, Greens might yet come out of this summer re-invigorated. Let’s not lose site, though, of ensuring that all EDA’s have candidates selected to run in the next election. And let’s not forget that the Campaign Committee has developed a plan which it needs to share with EDA’s and local candidates in an effort to kick-start the messaging which Greens will have to promulgate over the next 40 days (and nights).
This is our time. This is the Green Party’s chance to seize our opportunity, and to run with it. Let’s not waste this golden/green moment.
Steve May, CEO Sudbury Federal Green Party Association
Posted by Green Party Sudbury at 9:58 AM 0 comments
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Friday, August 7, 2009
Winners and Losers: Canadian Businesses, Carbon Pricing, Procurement and Conservative Game-Playing
I was at the downtown farmer’s market this past Saturday, where my wife and I bought a Christmas present for my mother from a local merchant who makes her own jewellery. It was exciting, and not just because we can strike a hard-to-buy-for person from our Christmas list in August. It was exciting because in making our purchase, we were supporting a local business. Something to feel good about.
On Tuesday morning, after enjoying a long weekend of not thinking too much about the world outside of my own family, I read an article about this week’s Premiers Conference in the morning paper by Rick Smith of Environmental Defence: "Clean energy, not photo-op, should be premiers priority", Toronto Star, August 5 2009: http://www.thestar.com/printArticle/676159. Mr. Smith’s concerns quickly returned my thoughts to what’s going on in the larger world around me. Looked like it would be "one of those" weeks, I thought at the time. With Friday’s hindsight as my perspective today, looks like I was right.
Smith was writing about winners and losers as they relate to upcoming discussions about carbon pricing. By way of background, it seems to me that carbon pricing through the implementation of a North American cap and trade system is now all but inevitable, as President Obama has tasked Congress with building such a system. Even Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have been discussing it. And as Harper and Obama both want to be seen to be doing something in advance of Copenhagen, and possibly a Federal election, I think carbon pricing through cap and trade is going to happen.
Heck, even Sun Media pundit and climate change-denier Lorrie Goldstein thinks a cap and trade system is inevitable: "Cap and trade or charade?", Sudbury Star, July 13, 2009: http://www.thesudburystar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=1653542. So there’s got to be something there.
Both Rick Smith and Lorrie Goldstein are concerned about how the Obama cap and trade system is shaping up, as Canada is sure to join in, rather than build our own system. Concerns relate to the sorts of breaks that might be given to certain industries, specifically the coal and oil industries. The justification will be that both of these industries are hard at work developing "clean coal" and "clean oil" technologies, and just need a little more time before they will be able to fully join the cap and trade system. Arguments will be made that forcing coal and oil to come all the way in now would irreparably damage our economies.So, the Obama-designed Harper-joined system will likely allow the heaviest polluting industries in North America to continue doing "business as usual" for a while longer yet.
The proposed U.S. system, though, calls for real reductions to greenhouse gas emissions by certain targets. The 2020 target is for a 17% reduction in emissions (from a 2005 base line). So, if the coal industry in the U.S. and the tar sands industry in Canada are to be given large exemptions from being forced to participate in the cap and trade system, how are we going to achieve these even very modest targets?
Looks like other industries are going to be tasked with making up the lion’s share of emission reductions. Those are the winners and losers Rick Smith identifies. The winners will be oil-rich Alberta and Saskatchewan (and Newfoundland to a lesser extent), and U.S. coal-producing States, at the expense of Canada’s manufacturing industry, of which a big chunk is located in Central Canada, specifically in the Greater Toronto Area.
To me, all of this looks to be a politically-motivated manoeuver to reward Conservative friends and punish Conservative foes. That’s what it has to be, because with such a woeful target it sure as heck doesn’t look like it’s going to accomplish anything much on the climate change file.
Now, the Conservatives have already written off Quebec ridings as those to woo in an upcoming election. The Greater Toronto Area, where those manufacturing jobs are located, has always been difficult ground for the Cons and Reform Party before them to make inroads in. In Ontario, the Cons have been successful with wooing rural voters, but the suburban and urban ridings remain largely the bastion of the Liberals and the NDP.
From his perspective, it makes political sense now for Harper to play to his own strengths, particularly since many of those in his camp have been griping about yanking their support because they perceive his $50 billion deficit as a betrayal of his Reform Party roots. If Western ultra-Cons were stay at home on E Day, there could be more than a few chinks in the blue-coloured coat of armour. So he needs to throw them a bone and exempt the oil industry from meaningful participation in the cap and trade system.
At the same time, Harper clearly needs to be perceived as taking action on climate change. Joining in with President Obama’s climate change initiative will give Harper a lot of positive press in the uncritical mainstream media. It’s just too bad that Obama’s plan looks like it’s going to be such a wash out, a big nothing, full of sound and fury but ultimately just a squeak; in short, what politicos like to call "spin".
Greens, you know there must be a problem with Obama’s plan when Saskatchewan Party Leader and Premier Brad Wall, an instrument of the oil interests if there ever was one, comes out in support of it! Wall has been on the record as a virulent opponent of a cap and trade system, claiming such a system will damage his province. Yet, in today’s Globe & Mail, Wall is reported as saying that since cap and trade seems inevitable, Obama’s plan isn’t that bad because it will put less onus on reducing greenhouse gases than even Stephen Harper’s own plan: (Brian Laghi, "Saskatchewan warms to Obama climate plan", http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/saskatchewan-warms-to-obama-climate-plan/article1244727, Globe & Mail, August 7, 2009).
Wow. Stephen Harper is starting to look like a crusading tree-hugger alongside Michael Ignatieff and Barack Obama, at least in the eyes of Wall and Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach!
So, it looks like that there will be winners and losers in the coming years, as "action" is seen to be taken in reducing ghg emissions.
Here in Sudbury, we’re very familiar already with being on the losing end of the Conservative’s stick. As you may know, approximately 3,500 employees from Vale Inco are now into their second month of what is sure to be a lengthy strike. United Steelworkers Local 6500 has been expressing some very real concerns about their new employer, Brazillian-based Vale SA, which acquired Inco with the permission of the Canadian government in 2006. At that time, Vale entered into a secret agreement with the government; an agreement which a revolving door of Conservative Ministers keep telling us would lead to job creation and a better economic situation for Inco communities in Labrador, Greater Sudbury and Port Colborne.
Here in Sudbury, we’ve not really seen those results. Vale’s acquisition of Inco is turning out to be a bit of a disaster for our community, and not just because of the current strike. Sudbury’s once-vibrant mining supply sector, once touted in this community by economic developers as the cornerstone for an evolving "centre of excellence", has been devastated in the past year, losing over 1,500 jobs, many of which were held by well-paid mining professionals. Sudbury’s mining supply sector has been a leader in mining innovation and the development of sustainable mining practices. These jobs lost are the sort of jobs a community needs to thrive.
Sure, in part, job loss has been a result of the recent economic downturn and falling nickel prices. But, also in part, the mining supply sector has been a victim of Vale’s business practices. In today’s Sudbury Star, editor Brian MacLeod expresses concern that Vale Inco will increasingly shut local industries out of competitive bidding process as Vale "rationalizes" its service delivery by looking for ways of maximizing "global synergies". Given that Vale’s head office is in Brazil, and that Vale operates in 35 countries world-wide, it stands to reason that local mining suppliers will continue to be left behind in the name of "centralized procurement" (see "The new boss isn’t quite like the old boss", The Sudbury Star, August 7 2009.http://www.thesudburystar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1690224)
USW Local 6500 would have us believe that Vale and the Conservatives sold out Inco communities, along with the rest of Canada. Canada’s natural resource sector is certainly no stranger to the international auction block, but if there was a deal made to protect Canada’s interests, as Industry Minister Tony Clement says there was, it doesn’t appear to have been much of a deal, given the situation here in Sudbury. Maybe it was a great deal in contrast to the "Valley of Death" Clement insists Sudbury was facing at the time, but that reality really only ever existed in dark spaces of Clement’s own mind (see: http://www.greenparty.ca/blogs/2022/2009-07-22/sudbury-according-tony-clement-valley-death)
I believe the Union is onto something here, given that Sudbury and Labrador are never going to elect a Conservative MP. Could it have been that the Conservatives just didn’t really care about Inco and the health of the Canadian mineral resource sector?
Or maybe it was something more insidious than just apathy. Maybe the mining industry, already perceived as an axis of evil by many voters, was being set up as a straw-man. Think about it.
In the next election, Stephen Harper gets up and tells Canadians that he’s taking action on climate change by agreeing to work with Obama by joining a North American cap and trade system. Sure, there will be exemptions for the tar sands, as the Canadian economy would be in dire straits if there weren’t. Even Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals recognize the importance of the tar sands, Harper will say, so really it’s a non-issue. Plus, the tar sands is getting its act together, and the Conservative government is investing billions of dollars in carbon capture and storage technology. What more could Canadians want? Oh yeah...Canadians would want to make sure that other "dirty" industries are doing their fair share. Well, look no further than Sudbury and at the mining industry in general. They’re being forced to reduce emissions under the cap and trade system, while simultaneously investing in local communities.
Nevermind that these local investments are actually just dollars being spent on out-sourcing, which have the effect of devastating local economies built to service the mining sector (and which could actually lead to a reduction in Canadian ghg emissions, as a defunct Canadian business spews no CO2), the story itself will play well in the media. Harper Takes Real Action on Climate Change! Read All About It!
One of the upcoming battles against climate change will be fought on the grounds of PROCUREMENT. With talk in the media about increasing Canadian opposition to "Buy American" policies in the U.S., it’s interesting that International Trade Minister Stockwell Day has been lobbying the provinces to bind themselves and their "creatures", the municipalities, to NAFTA rules for procurement. Day says that this would create a fair and level playing field for these levels of government, in keeping with NAFTA, to procure goods at the lowest prices. Nevermind that municipal and provincial governments would have to kiss goodbye any "buy local" policies they may have put in place on their own at the demand of their local citizens. Nevermind that local jobs could be lost to lower bids emerging from wage-challenged businesses in the U.S. and Mexico who have little understanding of local realities in our own communities. (see: Stuart Trew and Blair Redlin, "No payoff for premiers in ‘Buy American’ fix", Toronto Star, August 7, 2009http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/677478)
But, boy, wouldn’t such provincial and municipal procurement policies be in keeping with the sort of globalization that the Conservatives clearly believe in? Wouldn’t it also play well with core Conservative voters? "Look at what we’ve done," they’ll say. "We’ve led the way by requiring provincial and municipal governments to obtain the best deals that they can for spending your hard-earned tax dollars on local infrastructure and service delivery." No matter that local jobs disappear and tax revenues collected from local properties decrease as local businesses are undercut by international firms which play by different rules when it comes to wages and benefits and dealing with environmental concerns.
Sort of like what Vale Inco is doing by favouring low-priced anti-environmental mining sector suppliers over more eco-conscious Canadian businesses who pay their employees decent wages.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Canadian businesses aren’t competitive, only that there need to be other considerations made when we’re talking about building healthy communities. Clearly, outsourcing to international firms instead of investing in Canadian jobs is problematic at the best of times, but if there is a greater value in doing so, yes, we should consider it. Problem is, what is "value" here based on? More often than not, it’s a simple matter of looking at financial costs only: a company in Sao Paulo can provide a service at a lower price than a company in Sudbury can, and the procurement decision is made on that basis alone. Nevermind that the company in Sao Paulo pays its employees $1 an hour in wages and dumps all sorts of carbon into the air as part of their manufacturing processes.
Fair and reasonable compensation for work provided is a Canadian value which is often absent in outsourcing situations. Increasingly, Canadians are coming to value the purchasing of products and services which contribute less pollution to our air and water. In part, the Buy Local initiatives which are growing throughout Canada, as manifested in Sudbury’s downtown Farmer’s Market, are at the leading edge of this trend. With the Wal-Mart-ization of our communities with a heavy dependency on carbon, it’s fair to say that eco-friendly local businesses are on their way to becoming a Canadian value as well.
In the face of this reality, however, the Conservative government of Canada is ready to sell-out Canadian businesses and industries in favour of their oilpatch buddies, and so that they can be seen to be taking action on climate change. Canada’s natural resource sector industries are becoming increasingly internationalized in the name of cost-savings, when the reality is that their business practices are more damaging to the environment and the Canadian economy, which is a bit of a stretch to the definition of "cost savings" in my opinion.
Why is this happening? Well, it’s happening because Conservatives have never really bought into the notion that climate change is real, or that we need to do something about it. Lip-service needs to be paid to it, but no real action is required. Current business practices and economic growth are the centrepiece of any Conservative conversation on conservation.
And it’s happening because too many Canadians remain disengaged. For many, it’s enough to believe that action is being taken, because government officials say it’s going on. Who wouldn’t want to believe President Obama when he refers to "bold steps being taken". Surely something is being done, or else the media wouldn’t print it, right? Oh well, climate change isn’t the sort of sexy issue which lends itself to a sound-bite anyway.
Greens, we need to continue getting the message out there that Conservative and Liberal inaction on climate change can no longer be tolerated, because the crisis is now upon us; we’ve overshot 350 ppm of CO2 in our atmosphere where global temperatures will remain stable, and we’re on track to overshooting the anticipated 2 degree rise in global temperature at 450 ppm. With Obama’s 17% plan or even Harper’s plan of 20% reduction of ghg emissions by 2020 using a 2005 baseline, we’ll be in for a world of hurt, and far above 450 ppm.See? Not sound-bite friendly. But important, important, important. I’m growing so very weary of all of this Conservative game-playing.
Steve May, CEO Sudbury Federal Green Party Association
Posted by Green Party Sudbury at 9:23 PM 2 comments
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Welcome to Green Party Sudbury
Here in Sudbury we have been hard at work developing a volunteer base and talking to members of the community. What we're hearing is that Sudburians want more from their government. We want a government we can be proud of. We want a government that does not just speak about environmental challenges, but actually does something about them. We want a government that doesn't talk about tearing down our public health care system, but works to make it better. We want a government with a vision of the great potential of this country and a plan that can move it forward.Increasingly, Sudburians, like all Canadians, are realizing that the Green Party can form that government.We're working hard to make this blog & our website a go-to place for information on our party and on local issues that are important to Sudburians. We hope that you will take the time to look over our blog & site and learn more about what the Green Party stands for.N.B: Not all views expressed in these blogs reflect the views of the Green Party of Canada, the Green Party of Ontario, the Sudbury Federal Green Party Association, or the Sudbury Green Party of Ontario Constituency Association.
Steve May CEO, Sudbury Federal Green Party Association