Saturday, October 24, 2009

Municipal Election Breakdown - Regina Ward 7

Ward 7 features a rematch between Sharron Bryce seeking a third term on council, and Danny Berehula taking a second shot at dislodging her from the seat. Bryce held the seat fairly handily three years ago - but a second-time challenger always figures to have a better chance based on the experience of the previous campaign. So let's take a look at what both candidates have on offer.

Danny Berehula - video profile

It's surprising that somebody with Berehula's resume (as the longtime executive director of the Better Business Bureau) would have had as much trouble winning votes as he did in 2006. But if the issue then was with his campaign, he looks to be doing everything possible to fix that, having been well in front of the pack in announcing and advertising his candidacy.

So what can we expect if Berehula's campaign works out better this time than last? Berehula's core message is based on twin concerns of safety and fair distribution of city services. And among the lengthy list of other issues raised in his video profile and candidate announcement, he notably ranks as one of the few candidates to point out condo conversions as an issue linked to the need for increased development of rental housing.

Sharron Bryce - video profile

On the bright side, Bryce's message as to the need for "orderly", well-planned growth reflects at least a bit more concern for issues other than development at all costs than one will find in some of Regina's incumbents. But otherwise, Bryce looks to be positioned purely as a small-c conservative, focusing on tax complaints and anti-crime pandering while utterly neglecting to mention social issues.

And if those policy concerns weren't enough, it's even less helpful to the hope for improved representation that Bryce is one of the many incumbents branding herself somewhat with the current set of councillors as a whole.


This looks to be another ward where neither of the candidates is without some drawbacks. But based on the prospect that his more progressive platform planks might receive the attention they deserve as well as the potential value of having a consumer advocate on council, the endorsement goes to Danny Berehula.

Thanks, I think

I'd be tempted to think that this means I'm not doing my job. But how seriously can one take a set of awards which misses the slam-dunk choice for "Best Blogger Who Doesn't Blog Enough"?

The reviews are in

Ralph Surette on what Nova Scotia is now enjoying under Darrell Dexter's new NDP government:
This week's byelection results are another signal of how deeply things have changed in Nova Scotia. Not only is the NDP still gaining, but this run — totally opposite to our political customs — would have been nearly unthinkable a short while ago. Let’s repeat the election night question: What’s going on?
Simply, that very rare commodity in these parts — public confidence in government — has gone up. Higher, I’d guess, than at any time in the last 40 years. And this, remarkably, even as the government settles in during troubled economic times and passes a budget with a huge deficit — the very thing that has been political poison for 20 years.

It’s early, of course. In my long experience, it takes a year and a half to two years to make any firm judgments about how a new government is doing, and there are plenty of obstacles ahead that could unhorse this one. But the twist here is that this is not just a new government, but a presumed complete overhaul of political tradition. The political cobwebs have been cleaned out, the place has a new paint job and the public, by all appearances, likes it.
So who's up for some change from the same old story on the federal level as well?

On rush jobs

Yessiree, this certainly inspires nothing but confidence as to how much thought has gone into the Wall government's efforts to slap together a research/isotope reactor in Saskatoon:
A recent access to information request from The StarPhoenix for the minutes of the meetings of the working group aiming to bring a research nuclear reactor to Saskatoon received this response: They don't exist.

"No minutes were recorded at the meetings of the Nuclear Centre Working Group, as a result of the significant time pressures to create and submit the proposal on medical isotope production," reads a letter sent from Crown Investments Corp.

On common interests

I've seen a few rhetorical questions asking where the Greens have been when it comes to the NDP's effort to get Bill C-311 and its real greenhouse gas emission targets passed in time for the Copenhagen summit. So let's leave no doubt about the matter: to their credit the Greens both called for the Libs to support the bill prior to this week's vote, and criticized them for failing to do so.

But it's worth taking a closer look at where the Greens figure to stand in relation to the other federal parties going into the next federal election campaign. And it looks to me like the vote on C-311 is just the beginning of a realignment of the Greens' messaging which may ultimately bear fruit for both them and the NDP.

In the last federal election campaign, the pact between Stephane Dion and Elizabeth May had an obvious impact on the Greens' messaging. Rather than presenting the Libs as part of the problem in Canadian politics, May explicitly endorsed Dion for Prime Minister against the Cons, while echoing the Libs' criticisms of the NDP on climate change policy and other issues. And that made plenty of strategic sense for a leader trying to get elected in a riding where the Cons and NDP had previously ranked as the top two contenders (and where the Libs weren't bothering to oppose her).

But now, May's focus is a riding where the Cons and Libs ranked well ahead of the pack in 2008, and where a Lib opponent with fairly significant environmental credentials has been less than shy about attacking May personally. And that figures to make for radically different incentives.

Now, any hope of getting May elected depends on the Greens mustering an effective attack on both of the two largest national parties - presumably by linking the two together as holding up any action on climate change. Which means that the main message which May needs to convey - not just in her riding, but nationally to set out the foundation for her argument in Saanich-Gulf Islands - will be a familiar "same old story" theme which highlights how even Libs with some seeming personal interest in the environment vote against it for partisan purposes. (Needless to say, C-311 looks to serve as one of the main examples in favour of such an argument.)

And it won't just be the Greens with an obvious inclination to work with that line of messaging. After all, the Bloc has already put together an ad campaign painting the Cons and Libs as "two parties, one outlook". Which again makes perfect strategic sense, as each time Gilles Duceppe has taken aim at only one of the Cons or Libs as his main opponent during the course of an election campaign, the other has managed to increase its Quebec support by election day.

But while the Greens and the Bloc have obvious reasons to push a "same old story" message against the Cons and Libs out of self-interest, there can't be much doubt that it's the NDP that will benefit most to the extent that theme takes hold. In fact, a campaign where both the Greens and the Bloc reinforce the NDP's argument for change would provide absolutely ideal conditions for the NDP to raise its own share of popular support just in time for voters to head to the polls. And if the Greens and Bloc perceive that the NDP is in a position to make the jump ahead of one or both of its national rivals, that may provide all the more reason for them to keep working in tandem to deliver real change.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Musical interlude

Iris - Annie, Would I Lie To You

Sounds about right

Brian Topp:
Mr. Ignatieff has no particular issues or priorities he wants to address in this Parliament or, so it would seem, in politics. The idea therefore seems to be to flail away in all directions until Christmas, and to hope that time heals the red team base of support at some point in the new year. Perhaps assisted by a magic policy conference in January.

That makes two national parties dedicated to not toucheing the patente. They might as well be asleep. Another good reason to make Jack Layton prime minister -- at least he wants to get something done.
But the good news is that at least that fact is receiving due attention - even if the Libs are determined to stand in the way of actually getting anything accomplished.

On brownfields

It took a few days after the story first emerged, but a couple of Libs have finally noticed that their party voted with the Harper Cons against greenhouse gas emission targets. And particular credit goes to Eugene Forsey Liberal for actually questioning why the Libs voted down a bill which they'd passed in a previous incarnation and approved of when it was actually debated in Parliament.

Meanwhile, Jeff Jedras looks to be the first to actually try to defend the Libs' move. Except that he overlooks a glaringly obvious point in doing so.

After all, it's utterly nonsensical to start bringing up points about "due consideration" of a bill which has already been debated and passed with the support of the Libs. Which means that the calculation made by the Libs does appear to have been exactly what Janyce McGregor reported:
(A) minority of Liberals evidently wanted to look like they supported action on climate change, and voted against a further delay. But on the other hand, more of them were said to be reluctant to support a bill that would allow the NDP to claim any edge or victory as far as championing environmental causes in Parliament. The fact that enough of them voted in favour (so the extension would pass) ironically made it easier for a few of them to take their policy stand and vote against, without any serious consequences. Get it?
Now, it may well be that the fourteen MPs lionized by Eugene Forsey Liberal were in fact more concerned with whether they'd "look like they supported action" than with whether or not any actually got taken. But the fact that the vast majority of the Libs' MPs in attendance preferred to get nothing done for the sole purpose of avoiding some credit going to the NDP speaks volumes about where the Libs' priorities lie.

As for the blog response (or lack thereof): just so there's no doubt, I don't think for a second that there's any "conspiracy" afoot. While the Libs' silence would in fact make far more sense if it could be traced to some Harper-style diktat decreeing that any Lib discussing the issue would be placed just behind Denis Coderre on the party's list of untouchables, I don't think anybody would pretend that's how the blogosphere works. And indeed, if there had been some order that the topic be left alone issued to the range of bloggers on two aggregators reflecting a broad spectrum of party loyalty and independence, that itself would figure to have been made public in a hurry (and spurred more discussion of the topic).

But it looks to me even more damning that the same attitude which caused three-quarters of the Libs' MPs who showed up for the vote to take a stand against the environment just to spite the NDP also seems to be prevalent among the Libs' online supporters. In effect, that would suggest to me that the grassroots are actually even more jaded and withered when it comes to interest in the environment than the Libs' caucus. And if that's the case, then the Libs presumably won't see any reason to do anything more than pay lip service to the environment as Lib and Con governments alike have done for the last 16 years.

(Edits: fixed wording, corrected EFL's name.)

The reviews are in

Murray Mandryk:
But what perhaps was most revealing in Wednesday's throne speech was the nine paragraphs (compared to six paragraphs on agriculture) dedicated to limiting the amount of needles being handed out to intravenous drug-users to stop the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C -- and Wall's personal commitment to this issue.

Saskatchewan Health already accepted a report this spring saying the needle exchange program, though publicly unpopular, is preventing the spread of these deadly diseases. Those now working in the field call the new policy a pending disaster.

Yet Wall, certainly a social conservative himself, seems eager to dispense with expert assessment in favour of pandering to those social conservatives and others who, for whatever reason, seem intent on stirring the admittedly legitimate concern of needles discarded in public places into near hysteria.

For good or bad, this is how the Saskatchewan government is working.

On reruns

June 6, 2008:
Shorter Bush/Baird tag team on the prospects for a common front on greenhouse gas emission cuts at next week's G8 summit:
Speaking as the parties who refuse to even consider any emission reduction targets, we have a crazy hunch that no unanimous agreement will be reached.
Which of course brings us to a shorter Jim Prentice today:
Speaking as the last developed-world holdout against any emission reduction targets with no intention of budging an inch, I would suggest that any agreement at Copenhagen is unlikely.

Worth a visit

If you're looking for more information about next week's Saskatchewan municipal elections, a couple of mainstream media sites which you may not have seen may be worth a look.

First, the CBC has introduced a interactive map featuring notes from dozens of municipalities. The content isn't as detailed as would be ideal, but the site nonetheless looks to be easily the best single source for at least an overview of news from across the province.

Meanwhile, Dave Hutton's City Hall Notebook is providing regular and in-depth coverage of developments in Saskatoon's races. Consider this one time where it would be a plus if CanWest papers actually were a bit more uniform in their priorities, as the Leader-Post is sorely lacking for anything of the sort (in fact you'll find more about Regina's races in Hutton's recent archives than on the Leader-Post's newsblog).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

On self-promotion

Number of Canadian cities on Bon Jovi's "The Circle" tour: 5
Number of Canadian cities whose mayor launched himself in front of every available camera to claim full credit for Bon Jovi's "The Circle" tour: 1

Just a thought, but maybe Pat Fiacco might have time to participate in the occasional open public debate if he wasn't confusing the mayor's position with that of a concert promoter.

On toxic assessments

The blackout among partisan Libs on their party's choice to delay a climate-change bill continues unabated. But fortunately, others aren't being quite so shy about speaking out. Here's Stephen Hazell from Sierra Club Canada:
Ignatieff tossed the Green Shift aside when he became Liberal leader. This was perhaps politically necessary given the Liberals’ defeat in the October 2008 election. More baffling is that the Ignatieff Liberals appear to be treating environmental issues and climate especially, like toxic waste running away as fast as they can.

On numerous occasions, Ignatieff has voiced his strong support for further development of the tar sands, even though he says he wants Canada to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and he knows that and that he knows that tar sands are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. Increasing tar sands development means that Canada will be unable to begin to reduce our overall emissions for many years—even in the unlikely event that carbon capture and storage technology proves to be feasible and effective.

Just as baffling is Ignatieff’s failure to support Bill C-311, the proposed Climate Change Accountability Act. This NDP private member’s bill is identical to a bill passed by the House of Commons in June 2008 with Liberal support that died on the Senate order paper when the autumn 2008 election was called. Bill C-311 is important because it will establish in law Canada’s deep obligation to cut greenhouse gas emissions (25% below 1990 levels by 2020, 80% by 2050) that scientists say are needed to avoid disastrous climate change. Neither Ignatieff nor his environment critic David McGuinty have indicated what amendments the Liberals require in order to support Bill C-311.

Failure by Parliament to pass Bill C-311 will mean that Canada will go to the crucial Copenhagen climate treaty negotiations in December without a climate plan that other nations can take seriously.
h/t to JimmyRiddle @ Babble.

(Edit: fixed formatting.)

Pod People II: Now In Disguise

To my knowledge, the Cons gave up on their plans to formally appoint shadow MPs after their last scheme was made public. But that doesn't mean they're otherwise being anything but shameless about trying to pretend their candidates are government decision-makers.

Take for example Edmonton-Strathcona candidate Ryan Hastman, whose apparent first-ever appearance at a "business round table" just happened to coincide with a photo op with Stephen Harper.

So let's ask a few questions which I'm sure the Cons would like to avoid. What exactly was the "business round table" meeting where Hastman appeared? Did he ever have any affiliation with the group prior to his appearance with Harper? Who asked him to appear and for what purpose? And how if at all did the Cons draw any distinction between Harper's meeting with the group in what we can only presume was a government role, and the partisan strategy of having a candidate show up for publicity with the PM?

Municipal Election Breakdown - Regina Ward 8

The site of probably the biggest upset of the 2006 Regina elections, Ward 8 presents substantially the opposite problem from Ward 10. After narrowly defeating Vic McDougall last time out, incumbent Mike O'Donnell easily ranks at the top of the list of current councillors who could make valuable contributions to a more progressive council in the future - but he faces an extremely strong challenger in Donna Standingready. So how to decide between two candidates who can each make a worthy claim to an endorsement?

Mike O'Donnell - video profile

O'Donnell's policy platform is about as strong as anybody's this year, featuring a laundry list of curbside recycling, improved transit, sports and culture, and small business development (particularly among First Nations). And O'Donnell can point to at least some efforts to examine those issues within today's council.

Unfortunately, though, the composition of the current group makes it difficult to turn any studies into action. And while it's natural for an incumbent to present a "stay the course" message, it's difficult to reconcile that with any serious effort to address the issues that have been neglected by the rest of the current council.

Donna Standingready - video profile

Perhaps recognizing the perception that the current council will require some significant changes to allow the city to move in any different direction, Standingready's campaign is focusing largely not just on her resume generally, but on her experience navigating through government bodies in particular. And there's plenty of appeal to the prospect of a councillor who can combine good ideas with enough public policy experience to get them implemented.

And Standingready looks to be at least on par with O'Donnell in her policy focus, covering most of the same ground as O'Donnell while promising to lead the charge against flat taxes or other measures which would impose a greater burden on citizens as compared to businesses.


With both candidates presenting a policy slate that would make a positive contribution to Council, my endorsement is ultimately based on two factors: the need for a "change" message rather than satisfaction with the status quo, and Standingready's history of work experience with the First Nations Family Support Centre in a ward where both candidates acknowledge that First Nations issues need to be heard. So with that in mind, my endorsement for ward 8 goes to Donna Standingready.

On denial

For those interested, here's a comprehensive list of blog posts on Liblogs and Liberals Online about their party's choice to vote with the Harper Cons against any binding greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in advance of the Copenhagen climate summit:

(crickets chirping)

Update: It's worth going into a bit more detail as to what the Lib supporters' non-response to their party's actions means. On the one hand, it's obvious that there's nobody among the Libs' grassroots supporters willing to speak up for the environment against the party's political calculations - signalling that the party's previous attempt at greenwashing has been thoroughly rejected in favour of Michael Ignatieff's cheerleading for the tar sands.

But even more significant is the lack of anybody willing to come to the Libs' defence on an issue where the party was in the headlines. I'm sure in some cases that's a matter of supporters concluding they'd simply rather ignore the issue - but among the more rabid partisans it figures to reflect a calculation that climate change not only isn't enough of a priority for the Libs to try to anything done, but isn't even important enough for the Libs to pretend to care by trying to justify their actions.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In re: glass houses

Con MP Greg Rickford serves up a distraction tactic:
A Conservative MP has filed a complaint with the House of Commons ethics commissioner against 18 Liberal MPs for fundraising through their websites.

In a statement, Conservative MP Greg Rickford accused the 18 MPs of "attempting to raise money using their online parliamentary offices."

"The Liberal party should not be using their online offices offering constituent services to further their private or partisan interests, or the interests of their party or riding association," he said.
So MP websites shouldn't be used to direct traffic toward party activities? Rickford may want to have a word with some of his Con colleagues who "further their...partisan interests" by driving traffic to the Cons' website before making such a declaration.

En famille

Shorter Liberal Party of Canada:

Liberal Women's Caucus: I told you when our event was planned for this morning! Is it really that hard to listen?
Old Boys' Network: No, I'm pretty sure I'd remember if you'd said anything.

(Edit: fixed wording.)

A culture of entitlement

The examples of insularity and patronization at City Hall seem to be piling up just in time for Regina's voters to decide as to who they want representing them on Council. Following up on the examples of Wade Murray and Jerry Flegel, we now have Pat Fiacco refusing to participate in any debate other than the $45 breakfast sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce - arguing in the process that he's too busy occupying the mayor's office to justify why he thinks he should be re-elected to the position.

And for an added bonus, Paul Dechene points out an anonymous councillor's suggestion that challengers should be glad to avoid public debates on the premise that they might not know "the details of how municipal government works or even the minutiae of what council's been up to lately". That claim of course runs counter to the reality that it's normally frontrunners with plenty of name recognition who seek to avoid debates so as to prevent anybody else from building a message about them (see Fiacco, Pat above). But more importantly, it also looks to reflect a stunning degree of arrogance and ignorance in the assumption that challengers won't have done their homework as to what's happening in the city before putting their names forward.

So multiple members of the current Council have now effectively suggested that Regina should simply assume they know best, rather than defending any of their actions on the merits. And that should only provide reason to worry that the same attitude of infallibility might be pushing those same councillors to be equally dismissive of the concerns of citizens in general.


Make no mistake, the Wall government is planning a "Mission Accomplished" banner as we speak (whose unveiling will of course bear no relation to any actual progress). But can even the Sask Party find an excuse to put its leader in a flightsuit?

I stand corrected

So much for my expectation that the Libs would at least want to be seen doing what they could to pass the NDP's Climate Change Accountability Act - a bill they'd supported multiple times before - in time for the Copenhagen summit. Instead, they're now making excuses to join with the Cons in stalling the bill, and thus ensuring that Canada won't have an expression of the majority of Parliament to take to the world:
Federal Liberals say they won't support the NDP in its effort to push a private member's climate-change bill through the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The proposed legislation, called Bill C-311, the climate change accountability act, sets strict targets for greenhouse gas emissions and is currently being considered by a House environment committee.

The committee has asked for an extension of 30 sitting days to review the bill, a request that will be considered Wednesday when the House sits.

But New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton said the delay would undermine efforts to have the bill passed into law before the Copenhagen summit in December.
The bill has passed through two readings in the House of Commons since it was introduced by NDP member of Parliament Bruce Hyer, receiving support from the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois.

Liberal environment critic David McGuinty, however, said the committee needs more time to study the implications of the bill.

"We need to hear more about the American position, the European position, the Chinese position" before considering the bill, McGuinty told CBC News.
Needless to say, that raises some serious questions for the Libs to answer. For example, why on earth did they pass the same bill before if there was any need for "more time to study (its) implications"? What do the Libs think we don't yet know about the positions of other parties at Copenhagen, and why haven't they been doing any work to find out? And even if it would be ideal to have more information before making efforts to pass the Climate Change Accountability Act, isn't it a worse trade-off to wait for that information in exchange for losing any ability to act on it through Parliament?

Mind you, matters only figure to get worse from there. Remember that the hold-up on previous incarnations of the bill has been the Senate's delay in passing legislation which had already received the approval of the House - with delay being the best the Cons could do at the time since they were in the minority in the Senate. But with Harper's patronage-fest on the verge of flipping control of the Senate, it won't be long before the Cons have the numbers to vote down any environmental bills entirely.

Which means that a vote to delay C-311 now may do more than just eliminate the prospect of the bill's passing before Copenhagen; instead, it may allow the Cons to bottle up any action on climate change until the Harper government is removed from power (and indeed beyond if Harper's senators stay loyal to him after the House changes hands). So now is indeed the time for a push to force the Libs to put up or shut up on climate change - and to permanently brand them as Harper's accomplices if they choose to make sure nothing gets done.

Update: Devin has the definitive commentary on what the Libs' vote means.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On new resources

For those looking for a central resource for information about Saskatchewan's municipal elections, take a look at SaskProgressive - a new site put together by a group including yours truly. There you can check out what's been going on so far in some of Saskatchewan's progressive campaigns - and even more importantly, you can help keep us and our readers updated on what's going on in the races (particularly in smaller municipalities) which may not have received the exposure they deserve.

Municipal Election Breakdown - Regina Ward 10

With the municipal elections looming in the near future, I'll take some time to count down the Regina council races. For a full list of candidate bios and other resources, see the City's Council page.

Ward 10 figures to hold the most public attention of all of the Regina contests, thanks largely to the fact that Chris Szarka's entry has won it more attention in local sports media than most of the races have seen anywhere. But what should voters be looking out for when they go to the polls? Here's my take on each of the candidates based on their publicly-available material, as well as my endorsement for the ward.

Michael Cassano - video profile

Cassano was the last contestant to enter the race, and figures to face an uphill battle against the incumbency advantage of Jerry Flegel and the star power of Szarka. But a strong resume would seem to offer him a chance to stay in the race if combined with an equally inspiring platform or policy vision.

Unfortunately, Cassano disappoints somewhat on that point. While he mentions a few priorities like housing, traffic and noise control, his video presentation focuses almost entirely on his past committee involvement under a "volunteerism" theme, and his and candidate announcement and bio make "pride" a central message. Of course those are important values in a public servant, but they don't say much about what Cassano would be expected to do on Council.

Jerry Flegel - video profile

I noted here how remarkable it was that Wade Murray's campaign message includes an attempt to preserve the entire council rather than to focus on his own personal merits. But Flegel doesn't only do the same in his candidate bio; he also goes a step further in his video profile, leaving as his lasting impression a poll about the public's views of the current Council rather than any summary of his positions or priorities.

But then, there might be reason for a choice to send a "stay the course" message without highlighting what that course actually is. Flegel's video profile pays lip service to concerns like green space and snow removal in a seeming effort to round out his platform. But it's telling both that this mention comes only after his primary focus on MEGAPROJECTS!!!, traffic and taxes - and even more importantly that his list of accomplishments is based on roads rather than parks.

In fairness, Flegel's recognition of a need to appeal to different types of constituencies combined with his time on Council so far might make him relatively open to working with a better set of councillors from elsewhere in the city. But if the best hope for a potential councillor is that he'll be influenced by others rather than following through on his past record, that's usually a sure sign that it's time for a change.

Chris Szarka - video profile

Szarka may well be the favourite to win the ward, as his name recognition and popularity from his time with the 'Riders may well outweigh Flegel's incumbency advantage. Unfortunately, though, Szarka's public platform is maddeningly vague, pairing a regular refrain about lowering property taxes with talk about unspecified services, along with a commitment to the "fundamentals for viable, thriving communities" which doesn't explain what those fundamentals might be.

I'd be particularly interested to hear exactly what Szarka means by that latter phrase, and it could be that it would resolve some of the concerns I'd have with Szarka's direction. But at this stage of the game, it's tough to escape the fact that Szarka hasn't yet defined himself as much more than a familiar face.


From the above, it shouldn't be tough to tell that none of the Ward 10 candidates looks to be a slam dunk in my books. But for a combination of new blood on council and some focus on housing and culture issues, the choice here is Michael Cassano.

The madness continues

Jeffrey Simpson is right to point out the inefficiency of carbon capture and storage projects as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions - a particularly glaring problem when CCS is effectively the only idea dealing with climate change which the Cons are bothering to fund. But Simpson does manage to underestimate the Cons' uselessness on the issue by assuming they can't do worse when they've already done so:
Let's be generous and assume the two projects costing $1.6-billion do in fact bury 2.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, the most-prevalent gas contributing to global warming. Such a reduction would mean a per-tonne carbon-reduction cost of about $761 – staggeringly, wildly, mind-blowingly higher than any other conceivable measure designed to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. Want a contrast? Alberta has a piddling carbon tax on emissions over a certain level that companies can avoid by paying $15 a tonne into an technology fund.
Now, one can fairly say that measures that expensive and inefficient should be utterly inconceivable. But the Cons have managed to waste public dollars on far worse ideas.

Compare the CCS cost to such earlier Con excuses for emission reduction programs as their now-defunct transit pass tax credit - whose final price tag came in at a neat $10,000 per tonne. Or their car purchase tax credit, whose cost was calculated at over $5,000 per tonne.

In other words, the Cons had long since set the standard for the world's least effective environmental programs. Which means that while CCS may indeed be "mind-blowingly" inefficient compared to any reasonable standard, it's pretty much par for the course from the Cons.

But then, one can easily make the argument that none of the Cons' schemes was actually "designed to cut greenhouse-gas emissions". (Indeed, they later tried to defend their transit program by claiming that we shouldn't worry about whether it actually accomplished what it set out to do.) But the fact that the Cons have cynically used billions of dollars worth of public money which was supposed to benefit the environment on a combination of vote-buying and corporate pandering should remind us that the pork-barrelling and waste in this year's stimulus funding is nothing new from the Harper government.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Someday, this could all be ours

The Guardian:
Government officials have drawn up secret plans to tax electricity consumers to subsidise the construction of the UK's first new nuclear reactors for more than 20 years, the Guardian has learned.

The planned levy on household bills would add £44 to an annual electricity bill of £500 and contradicts repeated promises by ministers that the nuclear industry would no longer benefit from public subsidies.
Ministers have become concerned that power companies such as E.ON and EDF Energy are reluctant to commit themselves to building nuclear stations because energy prices have fallen and they fear they will not be able to recoup the multi-billion pound cost of building new nuclear stations.

The government believes that only by artificially increasing the cost of electricity generated by coal and gas stations through an additional carbon levy on household bills can nuclear become more competitive and encourage new reactors to be built.

One European utility executive told the Guardian: "New nuclear will not happen without sorting out the carbon price." The Guardian understands that the Office of Nuclear Development (OND), set up by Lord Mandelson's business department, has promised nuclear companies that the price of carbon under the EU emissions trading scheme – now about €13 per tonne – will not be allowed to fall below €30 per tonne, and ideally €40. According to the energy consultancy firm EIC, the new carbon levy would add £44 to the £500 annual electricity bill paid by an average household.
The executive director of Greenpeace UK, John Sauven, said: "Nuclear power has always been a byword for monumental taxpayer handouts. Now the likes of EDF Energy are getting cold feet over the cost of new nuclear stations, it looks like the government is trying to sweeten the deal with public money. This is despite saying categorically that any new reactors will have to survive without subsidy. Without huge financial support, nuclear power doesn't make economic sense. Even the big utilities now admit this."

On last chances

It's undoubtedly for the best that the NDP is highlighting the need to get its Climate Change Accountability Act passed to set out the position of Canada's democratically-elected MPs before the Copenhagen summit.

But I do have to wonder if an apparent focus on a Con vote to delay the bill figures to be a particular good use of the NDP's efforts. Is there a lot of risk that the Libs - who have voted for the same bill and its predecessors before - are suddenly going to line up on the opposite side of the issue? And if not, shouldn't the NDP be doing most of its work on getting the bill through the Senate (which is where it's stalled before) and having it respected by the Con government, rather than on votes which should be relatively easy ones?

Monday Morning 'Rider Blogging

Most of the talk about the 'Riders' tie with Calgary has focused on the penalties which kept drives alive for both teams in overtime. But while those undoubtedly contributed to the game's outcome, it's worth pointing out that the 'Riders themselves passed on what looked to be an ideal chance to take the game into their own hands.

For background, keep in mind that Darian Durant has proven to be extremely effective on two-point conversions recently. Twice in the last three games, the team has trailed by eight points in the game's dying minutes - and both times Durant managed to get the ball into the end zone, then put up a two-point conversion to tie the game. And the game before that, he likewise managed to complete a two-point convert to push Saskatchewan's lead from one point to three.

Which makes it odd to me that the 'Riders didn't go for two after their first overtime touchdown when it would have ended the game.

Even leaving aside the fact that a one-point convert is something less than automatic, the decision to play it safe looked like one with nothing but downside. The first overtime series would be the only one where the 'Riders could count on the benefit of scrimmaging last, and thus being able to use an extra down to get to the end zone if needed. In contrast, a second series would potentially give Calgary that advantage instead. So why not press the advantage while the 'Riders held it?

And the choice looks even more obvious after Saskatchewan's first convert attempt - where the Stamps managed to highlight the uncertainty of a convert by blocking the kick, but in the process took a penalty which would have made it easier to find the end zone on a two-point convert.

Mind you, there would be an obvious case for merely trying to extend the game to one more series if there was reason for concern about the team's chances on a two-point convert. But again, that's actually turned into somewhat of a specialty for Durant, whose combination of timing, touch passing and scrambling ability is ideally suited to finding some way to get the ball into the end zone from up close.

In sum, then, the 'Riders' first overtime possession got them exactly what a team normally hopes for at the end of a game: the chance to have the game decided by its own execution on offence, with the ball in the hands of a quarterback who's building a track record of making big plays when it counts the most. And having chosen not to take advantage of that opportunity, the 'Riders couldn't have expected much more than to come away with a single point in the standings.

On false reports

Shorter Jim Prentice:

It's completely false to say that G77 countries walked out on a UN climate meeting to protest Canada's position that Kyoto should be effectively torn up. What really happened is that they (checks thesaurus) departed the (checks thesaurus) gathering to (checks thesaurus) disapprove of Canada's (checks thesaurus) stance. And we're positively outraged that anybody would fail to see the difference.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Predictable and predicted

Of course it's outrageous that the Harper Cons spent over $100,000 of public money for their June propaganda exercise - including $50,000 just to print glossy copies of their "report card". But let's not forget which party it was that ignored the Cons' already-atrocious reporting record and decided that the report cards should serve as their sole price to keep the Cons in power.