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Proportional Representation the only credible option for 2019

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Press Release from Fair Vote Canada, December 1, 2016

Today, Canadians saw first-hand how proportional representation can work for all Citizens. The Special Committee on Electoral Reform – a multi-partisan group of MPs who were selected in proportion to the votes their parties received – submitted an evidence-based, majority report that called for a strong system of Proportional Representation.

 The all-party committee on electoral reform has stated that they heard overwhelming support from experts and Canadians on their cross Canada tour. This reinforces the findings from decades of research from around the world and of 13 previous electoral reform processes in Canada, including two thorough and impartial citizens assemblies.
However, in a shocking and profoundly disappointing move, the Liberal members of the ERRE held a secondary press conference where they essentially recommended that the government break its own election promise. Oddly, the Chair of the Committee suggested that the point of making election promises is not so much to actually fulfill them, but to ENGAGE people. This is a mind-bending and dangerous spin on what it means to make electoral promises.
What needs to be stressed is that there was a consensus on what the committee heard: that 88% of experts that expressed an opinion on electoral reform suggested proportional representation – not AV (ranked ballots in single-member ridings), not First-past-the-post.
While the ERRE did not recommend a particular proportional system in the majority report, the NDP and Greens put forth two made-in-Canada PR options based on the evidence they heard and they are willing to work with the government on a design. The base exists for satisfying the government’s electoral promise in good time for 2019.
 As Nathan Cullen declared: “rarely have such extensive consultations on a subject been carried out.” Unfortunately, the turnout and passion of Canadians did not impress MP Ruby Sahota who added that the Liberals needed to see a lot more engagement but would not commit to goals or outcomes.
We wonder what magic bar of engagement is necessary to fulfill their promise and how does that measures up against other election promises?
When the Government launched its electoral reform platform preceding the election, they announced they would end first-past-the-post voting and make every vote count. That means Proportional Representation. Trudeau and many in his party said they were changing the system based on feedback from Canadians that the system is unfair and does not accurately reflect what voters say at the polls.
The Government now has all the evidence it needs. Now is time for Liberals to show leadership, rise above partisan self interest and deliver on their promise, including introducing legislation within 18 months of the 2015 election to “Make Every Vote Count”, in time for the 2019 election.

Key indicators from ERRE hearings

88% of expert witnesses who expressed a preference called for proportional representation

4% supported the Alternative Vote (majoritarian ranked ballot systems tend to evolve towards a two-party system, often favour centrist parties and could further entrench the distortions brought about by our existing majoritarian system. )

67% thought a referendum was undesirable or unnecessary.

Detailed analysis can be found here in our Synthesis of witness statements and views.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 1, 2016 at 5:38 pm

We Want Proportional Representation

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Most of this post is going to be a Press Release from Fair Vote Canada. You will know if you have been following me that, like most Canadians, I am dissatisfied with our First Past the Post electoral system. It produces results which fail to reflect the way that we have voted, especially in constituencies where there are several candidates. Clearly  a system that elects someone who most people voted against is a failure. And this is not a new problem, and we have been railing against it for years, yet the politicians who have benefited from this system are not inclined to change it. In the last election Justin Trudeau made a commitment to “Real Change” including “making every vote count”. And now, guess what, he’s trying to find a way to not keep his promises. Just like he has not kept them on respecting First Nations and having an evidence based decision making system.

I know this is another long post, but it is worth reading. It is also worth taking action to remind our Prime Minister that we expect him to keep his promise.

Nov. 3, 2016

Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation

The all-party committee on electoral reform (ERRE) has just finished four months of expert and public consultations. They will make their recommendation to Government by December 1st.

Of the ERRE witnesses with a position on voting systems, 88% recommended Proportional Representation. This reinforces the findings from decades of research from around the world and of 13 previous electoral reform processes in Canada, including two thorough and impartial citizens assemblies.

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When the Government launched the process without a mechanism for collecting empirical data, Fair Vote Canada, a multi-partisan advocacy group, started tracking the process very closely. We are releasing the results of our work to the media because we believe the process needs to be transparent and accountable.

(You can find key a list of results below with links our spreadsheets.)

Despite a strong call for proportional representation across all of the consultative platforms, we believe reforming the electoral system could be in serious trouble based on recent comments from Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Monsef.

President Réal Lavergne expressed Fair Vote Canada’s concerns “We are worried that the Minister and the Prime Minister are saying that we cannot count on the government keeping its promise to make every vote count. Yet experts and Canadians have clearly expressed themselves in favour of proportional representation, which is what it really means to “make every vote count.”.

David Merner, Vice-President of Fair Vote Canada and a Liberal candidate in last year’s federal election adds “This is not the time for back-tracking. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Democratic Institutions have personally created a sense of hope in Canadians, building on the 2015 Liberal campaign promise of Real Change. Millions of voters believed that the government intended to keep its promises. We believed the political cynicism of the Harper years was behind us, and thousands of us participated in the government’s consultations in good faith.”

Merner says “Now is the time for the government to deliver on its promises.

Highly regarded Conservative strategist and spokesperson for the Every Voter Counts Alliance, Guy Giorno, adds that “committee members must endorse what’s right for Canadians, not what benefits any particular party. Given the weight of the evidence before the committee, the only legitimate option is a recommendation for proportional representation. Let’s also remember that electoral reform was a major issue at the last election, and voters overwhelmingly supported parties promising change.”

The weight of expert testimony in favour of PR was echoed across the country in hundreds of town halls and public dialogues.

Over the next few days the ERRE will negotiate a recommendation for a new electoral system for Canada. The final report is due on December 1.

Fair Vote Canada’s President Réal Lavergne explains that “Once that recommendation has been made, it will be incumbent on the minister to carry it forward and for the government to act on it. Leadership will be required to educate both the public and parliamentarians, and to champion the proposed reform.”

“Based on all the results of the expert and citizen consultations, the committee’s only legitimate option is to recommend in favour of proportional representation.”

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Key indicators from ERRE hearings

88% of expert witnesses who expressed a preference called for proportional representation

4% supported the Alternative Vote (majoritarian ranked ballot systems tend to evolve towards a two-party system, often favour centrist parties and could further entrench the distortions brought about by our existing majoritarian system. )

67% thought a referendum was undesirable or unnecessary.

Detailed analysis can be found here in our Synthesis of witness statements and views.

Open Mic-sessions

From coast to coast, Canadians lined up at the ERRE open-mic sessions asking that the committee keep the promise and deliver PR.

According to data released this week by the NDP, out of 428 participants who spoke up, 374 (87.38%) called for proportional representation.

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MP town halls

Total number of town halls reporting: 174

The following indicates the level of support observed for proportional representation in MP town halls.

69.5% (121 town halls) – Majority of speakers calling for proportional representation.

8.6%% (15 town halls) – Majority for electoral reform, but no clear majority specifically for proportional representation

5.2%  (9 town halls) – Support divided between majoritarian system and proportional representation

5.7%   (10 town halls) – Majority for the status quo

8.0% (14 town halls) – Report does not allow any majority view to be identified

2.9%   (5 town halls) – Majority support for the Alternative Vote

Detailed analysis can be found here in our Synthesis of witness statements and views.

 

Citizen and Community Group Dialogues/Events

Here are basic indicators from the 27 dialogues or town halls hosted by citizens and community groups posted on the ERRE site or for which we have directly obtained the information so far:

Total number of participants: 1,058

88% (22 events) – A majority of speakers calling for proportional representation

8% (2 events ) – A majority for change but no majority for any one option

12% (3 events) – Report does not allow any majority view to be identified.

We are aware of at least 15-20 other community dialogues that are not yet posted on the ERRE site.

Detailed analysis can be found here.

 

Minister Monsef’s Townhalls

Minister Monsef organized two types of town hall consultations: ones in her own riding, and others as part of a cross-country tour. Here is an extract from the report submitted to the ERRE on town halls held by Minister Monsef in her Riding of Peterborough:

“It is clear that there is an appetite for thoughtful change to the electoral system. While opinions on the various electoral systems did vary, most participants indicated their support for a more proportional electoral process that still respected the need for local representation and simplicity of the ballot.”

Although Minister Monsef routinely conducted straw polls on issues such as mandatory voting and online voting in town halls on the road, she did not do the same regarding support for proportional representation. FVC volunteers attended these events across the country and shared their opinions. Here are a few quotes from participants:

Toronto: “PR was clearly the main issue for most. With respect to PR, many attendees spoke passionately and eloquently in favour, and if anyone present opposed it, he or she was not bold enough to express that view.”

Vancouver: “It seemed that 90% of the audience… did want some form of PR.”

Edmonton: “ It seemed most people were in support of some sort of proportional representation.”

Yellowknife: “She asked whether the participants liked FPTP to remain, or Ranked system or STV or MMP or Proportional Representation implemented. One voted for FPTP. Many voted for MMP and a few voted for PR.”

Yukon: “Some Yukoners came in support of our current electoral system (First Past the Post); more were on the side of moving towards proportional representation.”

Halifax: “The feedback from the groups certainly favoured PR.”

Montreal: “There was an overwhelming support for PR in the room.”

Thunder Bay: “Of the dozens who rose to spoke, everyone spoke in favour of PR.”

Gatineau: “ Participants spoke to PR at every opportunity they had… However, the format made this difficult… Taking into consideration those interventions that spoke to the issue of PR vs FPTP or AV, the overwhelming majority of interventions – in the order of 70% or more – were in favour of PR.”

Waterloo: From the report of 4 MPs: “Every group discussed the need for our new electoral system to feature some degree of proportionality.”

Charlottetown: “ About 90% of the people there were pro-PR.”

Winnipeg: After noting that three people were for FPTP because they feared losing local representation. The rest of the comments I heard were mostly just preferences for the different PR systems.”

Happy Valley-Goose Bay: “What we said was that we wanted PR  BUT, it had to be a hybrid type that considered the lack of population and massive land mass of not only Labrador but 60 % of Canada, i.e. the North.”

Calgary: “There was overwhelming support for getting rid of the current system, with different groups mentioning STV or MMP as their top choice.”

A concluding note

And, to conclude, this eloquent quote from a Fair Vote Canada volunteer at the Victoria town hall where the Minister said she “can’t promise you that I’ll be advocating for PR because I haven’t heard that from an overwhelming majority across the country.“

Victoria: “The wheels were skidding out of control as we tried to combat the spin we received at last night’s town hall on Electoral Reform. Maryam Monsef, the Minister of Democratic Institutions hosted the gathering in Victoria billed as “the last chance” to give your input. But the tone of the meeting was quite acrimonious. They were clearly managing the message while backpedaling from an election commitment about changing the electoral system. Not only did she defend Trudeau’s recent comments about no longer needing this reform because we voted for HIM.”

“After months of hearing expert witness by the proportionally cross-partisan panel, and while MPs held public consultations with thousands of Canadians across the country, are we now to believe there is no appetite for Proportional Representation? Monsef said that she has not yet made up her mind but the implication of her words was troubling. Will the government diminish the committee’s well-researched, democratic report in December by championing their predetermined preference? For many of us who attended last night the so-called consultation felt like a sham.”

Written by Stephen Rees

November 3, 2016 at 12:43 pm

Port development trumps BC agriculture

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Canadians did not vote for this. The expectation they had was that electing a Liberal government would produce a rapid, radical change of direction from the Conservatives. Instead of that we have seen what is apparently always the way with Liberals: campaign on the left, govern on the right. It was certainly my bitter experience in the first Canadian election I was able to vote in after I became a citizen in 1992. I read “The Red Book” which set out a Keynesian agenda for the country, so I voted Liberal. Then Paul Martin became Finance Minister and we went on with all the conservative policies I had voted against. Of course I did not get caught twice: I voted Green last time. Not nearly enough people did that, so we are forced to repeat history.

The opponents to the Massey Tunnel replacement have long held the view that real reason for this megaproject is further port expansion. Once the tunnel has been replaced by a bridge, the tubes will be removed from the river bed, and dredging will commence. Of course, the Environmental Assessment for the project ignores this completely. And ports are a federal responsibility. We now have confirmation from federal agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay:

“We do not want to lose agricultural land but it’s no good producing products that you can’t move, either,” MacAulay said, answering a question from Country Life in BC following a presentation to Greater Vancouver Board of Trade members on September 12. “So it’s one way or the other – the port in Vancouver has to be efficient to move the products to market. The Asian market is a big market, only going to get larger, and we want to be there.”

So we can now add loss of land from the ALR to the Site C project, the Lelu Island LNG project and the almost certain federal approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion to the “sunny ways” of our new Prime Minister. Yes, I am sure he looks very appealing to many when he takes his shirt off. But I do not think that is nearly enough to justify his policies.

Of course I am risking a lot by openly opposing this government. We have already seen how the practice of the Conservative Government

  • audits of the environmental charities for political activity, ignoring the Fraser Institute far more blatant flouting of the same law;
  • removal of Canadian citizenship with no right to an oral hearing, no right to have the matter referred to a judge, and no right to even know the extent of the case against them
  • Creation of a “New”CSIS as a secret police force

continued by this government. Of course, if I do find myself without citizenship I will not actually be able to prove that it was environmental activism that was used to brand me a terrorist – but that is already happening.

Is Trudeau any different than the old boss?

Written by Stephen Rees

October 13, 2016 at 1:20 pm

There’s nothing clean about the Site C dam

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There is something wrong in BC. There is a provincial general election coming up (May 2017) and the premier seems to be determined to secure her legacy by building mega-projects of dubious or even negative value before she gets kicked out of office. Hopefully, the new government in Ottawa will do something to restrain this effort to change the face of BC before more damage is done.

 

Copied from Amnesty International

Open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
Canadian organizations condemn Peace River hydroelectric mega-project for human rights violations

Dear Prime Minister,

Our organizations are profoundly concerned that construction of the Site C dam is being pushed ahead despite the conclusion of a joint federal-provincial environmental assessment that it would severely and permanently undermine Indigenous peoples’ use of the land; harm rare plants and other biodiversity; make fishing unsafe for at least a generation; and submerge burial grounds and other crucial cultural and historical sites.

The Site C dam is not just another resource development project. It is one of the largest such projects currently underway in Canada. For First Nations such as West Moberly and Prophet River, which continue to challenge the project in court, flooding the Peace Valley would take away one of the last remaining places where they can still practice their cultures and traditions. In other words, it would violate fundamental rights protected by Treaty 8, the Canadian Constitution, and international human rights law.

When the federal and provincial governments approved the project, they claimed that the severe harm that would be caused by Site C was ‘justified’ by the energy and the jobs it will produce. We strongly disagree.

Ignoring the rights of Indigenous peoples can never be justified. Furthermore, in this day and age there are far less damaging and less costly methods that could be used to meet British Columbia’s energy needs – many of which would create more jobs than Site C.

Last month, Canada played a crucial role in achieving an historic global accord on climate change. The Paris Agreement calls on governments to increase the use of renewable energy but also reaffirmed the obligation of all governments to acknowledge and respect human rights, including the rights of Indigenous peoples.

In other words, energy projects that violate human rights are not clean or green.

Prime Minister, we urge you and your Cabinet to put the principles you championed in Paris into practice in Canada. We urge that construction of the Site C dam be halted immediately, that all permits be rescinded, and that the previous government’s approval of this project be re-examined. It is crucial that the federal and provincial governments work collaboratively with the Indigenous peoples of the region to reach common agreement on a long-term plan to protect Indigenous land use in the Peace Valley.

The people of Treaty 8 have said no to Site C. Any government that is truly committed to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, to respecting human rights, and to promoting truly clean energy must listen.

Signed,

Alliance 4 Democracy
The Anglican Eco-Justice Unit, Diocese of New Westminster
Amnesty International Canada
Blue Planet Project
BC Women’s Institute
Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion – BROKE
Canadian Federation of Students
Canadian Friends Service Committee
Council of Canadians
Christian Peacemakers Team, Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Project
Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) Vancouver
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS)
CPAWS-BC
David Suzuki Foundation
Earthroots
Ecojustice
Greenpeace Canada
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Patagonia
Peace Valley Environment Association
Peace Valley Landowner Association
RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs)
Skeena Wild Conservation Trust
Sierra Club BC
West Coast Environmental Law
Wilderness Committee
Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative

Written by Stephen Rees

February 11, 2016 at 8:34 am

Posted in energy, Environment, politics

Tagged with

How to fix Translink’s broken governance

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The need for this article, right now, is almost purely academic. The ruling BC Liberals seem immune to widespread obloquy over not one but a series of scandals any one of which might have brought other kinds of government down. Yes Translink is a problem for those of us living in the region  – and that is, numerically at least, the majority of the BC population. But that is not the way politics works here, and Christy Clark seems able to serve out the rest of her term. And anyway there are plenty of other issues where she is at odds with most of the people who live here, but can survive at least until the next election.

The reason I decided to start writing was a piece in BC Business entitled  “How TransLink might fix its broken business model” which is nearly a month old now but its author, Frances Bula chose to tweet it again to-day, which caught my  attention. Basically the article looks at the turn around in Atlanta, and speculates about a similar approach here.

My comment is under the article, and this post is designed to enlarge upon it. Quoting myself

The problem in Vancouver is not management. It is governance. The present model is unaccountable and unrepresentative. It was imposed by a provincial government that has clearly demonstrated that it has absolutely no interest in seeing it work.

The province has always had a policy that transit is different to other types of public service, and needs a unique approach. It interferes continually but, at the same time, refuses to fund transit properly while spending far too much on road expansion. A referendum is required for any new funding mechanism, but is never required for any highway project – or indeed any other type of provincial spending/funding decisions.

And Jordan Bateman will always be only too happy to torpedo any proposals that might actually work to improve the situation as that would rob this one trick pony of his audience.

A new CEO is not going to be able to change the governance. Only the province has the ability to do that. This government never admits to any of its mistakes. Only a change in Victoria as complete as the one just seen in Ottawa is going to make any difference.

So one day there will be a different provincial government that decides that it is time to reform Translink. Here is what they will need to think about:

The current arrangement has been cobbled together to suit the BC Liberals of the day. It makes no sense now to continue with it, and the easiest point to start might be to unpick what they did by simply repealing their legislation, and go back to the former GVTA. Except that was not exactly popular either, and for very good reason. In its first iteration it was a new body run by some but, not all, of the Mayors with some acknowledgement of the varying sizes of the municipalities. This method of indirect representation is similar to that of Metro Vancouver, responsible for waste disposal and water delivery, regional parks and planning, but there all the Mayors get a seat at the table but with weighted votes.

Translink was supposed to have been a transportation agency – with responsibility for some bridges and the Major Road Network (MRN), but this was really only provincial downloading of responsibilities that would have happened anyway. One of the worst decisions, in terms of its financial impact on Translink, was to replace the Albion Ferry with the tolled Golden Ears Bridge, which has created a huge drain on the agency’s revenues as traffic has never come up to expectations, and revenue risk was not transferred to the P3 – which pretty much vitiates the reason for using that method of funding. Apart from that the MRN seems to have worked well except for one long running argument over a bridge between New Westminster and Coquitlam. On the other hand the ill conceived North Fraser Perimeter Road was soundly defeated and has yet to re-emerge. Though it almost certainly will if the Ministry engineers get their way – as they usually do in the Long Run.

I have long argued that indirect elections are a recipe for discontent. Mayors are not elected on regional issues, and tend to adopt a stance that is defensive of their turf before any regional consideration. But no matter how much you might dislike what your Mayor says over regional issues, they are not the deciding factor come election day. We need representative and responsible government and you do not get that by holding infrequent, contentious non binding plebiscites.

The governing body has to be an advocate of better transit, because this region has historically been underserved for most of its existence, and is the only feasible way for a region of this size to function effectively. Transit is not only vital to the economy, it is also essential to tackle our most pressing environmental and social issues – and those include affordable housing. Where you chose to live determines how much you travel and the concept of affordability has to include costs of housing AND transportation if it is to be meaningful.

And while the province will never make any concessions over the needs of longer distance travel and transport, nor will the federal government in terms of ports and airports. Both levels of government have effectively abandoned their responsibilities with respect to housing but that is not sustainable and will inevitably have to change. And while technological changes may well have some dramatic impacts on how we use the transportation system they are unlikely to reduce demand for movement of people and goods overall.

It is also obvious that you should not plan just for transport as though it was not intimately enmeshed with land use. Sadly, we continue to behave as though the two subjects were unrelated – even if we give the idea of integration at least lip service if not substantive commitment. By and large, when new transit lines are planned it would be much better to get them up and running before the people arrive, if you do not want them to get used to driving everywhere first, which is what has been happening.

So, given that Metro Vancouver seems to work acceptably, why would you not just put Translink under its command? I think that is a temptingly straightforward solution but not one that satisfies the need to improve accountability. Much better I think to reform both at the same time and hold direct elections for regional government – with a Mayor for Metro. This is the solution that was adopted in London. Mrs Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council, but then balked at privatising and deregulating London Transport. It was the proverbial dog’s breakfast and did not last for long after she was deposed. The Greater London Authority and its directly elected Mayor now runs Transport for London – and some related issues that have been downloaded including taxis (which used to be run by the Home Office). Much of the transit service is contracted out, but there is a single integrated fare system, and some of the local train services have been transferred from the national rail system to the Overground.

The huge issue that I have not so far dealt with is the need for much more investment in transit as well as increasing need for revenue support – if only because the use of gas tax revenues has been a victim of the system’s very success at getting people out of their cars. Property tax is not going to be accepted, and the province needs to become much more responsive to the needs of people to get around without a car. This applies as much outside Vancouver as within it. It is absolutely baffling why the province refuses to set up a transit service along Highway 16 (“The Highway of Tears“) between Prince George, Terrace and Prince Rupert. That has to be part of the solution to terrible loss of life due to aboriginal women being forced to hitchhike as the only way to get to essential services. Victoria’s need for rail based transit could not be more obvious, nor so long obviously ignored. Restoring trains on the E&N is only a start.

So yes there is going to have to be more provincial money for transit, and the roads budget is the place to start. We simply cannot afford more freeways and gigantic bridges. We also need to raise money fairly and equitably. Income tax and corporation tax are the obvious places to start, and the odious fees and charges levied without reference to ability to pay have to be abolished. So much less reliance on BC Hydro, ICBC as revenue sources, no more MSP and a thoroughgoing reform of BC Ferries to make it once again a public service and not a pretend corporation. The wealthy can readily afford to pay more tax. There has to be an end to all the corporate welfare, especially subsidies and outright give-aways of natural resources. There will still need to be fossil fuels, but levying reasonable royalties (cf Norway) has to be central to public finance. Carbon tax has worked, to some extent, but the “revenue neutral” mantra has to be abandoned.  We have to switch away to renewable energy sources at a much faster rate, and a lot of carbon is going to have to stay in the ground. At the same time, we have to recognize that far too many people are currently living a hand to mouth existence, and cannot absorb more levies fees and tax increases. We have to be more socially responsible, but this also will often mean better ways of doing things. It is cheaper to house people than it is to cope with the costs of homelessness. The war on drugs is unwinnable, but recreational substance use can be a useful source of revenue – and self medication.

The idea that we can reform Translink by tinkering with its PR and “business model” (whatever that means) is delusional. And like any interdependent ecosystem, we cannot just pull on one or two strings and expect the web to stay intact.  But we can also readily identify where the current policies have not worked and cannot be made to work better just by getting tougher. Most of the knee jerk right wing responses are ill informed and unsupported by any credible data. Better policies are in place elsewhere and we can find better examples than the one we have been so blindly following. And none of this is a stand alone issue. It is long past time for some joined up thinking.

AFTERWORD

From the Globe and Mail Friday November 20

One change Mr. Fassbender said he’s not going to consider at all is another reorganization of how TransLink is governed. When the agency was first created, 12 mayors sat on a board that directed TransLink. The province changed that in 2007 to have the board composed of non-political appointees.

Mr. Fassbender emphasized that everyone needs to stay focused on what’s really important, not squabbles over how much TransLink’s CEO is paid or what the governance of TransLink looks like. “It’s important that we keep our eye on the goal – an integrated, working transportation system.”

 

Written by Stephen Rees

November 18, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Rachel Notley’s Speech to Investors

with 3 comments

Like many people sick of conservatism, I was greatly encouraged by the recent change in the government of Alberta. The victory there of the NDP after so many years of right wing domination seemed like a breath of fresh air.

The disappointment I am currently experiencing is visceral. Premier Rachel Notley spoke to the Stampede Investor Forum on Tuesday “her first major (private) speech to an industry crowd, two months after her New Democrats won.”

…it’s the oil sands that have really emerged as our international showpiece.

For more than half a century, Albertans have been coming up with unconventional solutions for an unconventional resource so we can extract, handle and ship it responsibly, to the very best of our abilities.

This attitude of pushing the limits of what’s possible influences every aspect of the oil sands, from research and development to environmental management to the service and support fields.

It’s a tremendous asset which has transformed Alberta into one of the world’s leading oil producers.

And I’m here today to emphasize that the province has a government determined to defend this advantage, by being constructive at home, and by building relationships around the world.

…Alberta will continue to be a healthy place for private investment under our government.

This definitely applies to energy.

Expanding existing oil sands projects, establishing new ones and pioneering advanced technologies — all this requires spending on a large scale.
Under our leadership, Alberta’s abundant oil and gas reserves will remain wide open to investment.

MacLeans has “the premier’s prepared text at the forum cosponsored by her government, Calgary Economic Development and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the industry’s main megaphone.”

I have been regularly berated by NDP supporters who claim that the Green Party is “splitting the progressive vote”. I will now quote this speech to anyone who dares to claim that the NDP and the Green Party share the same values.

Humanity is rapidly approaching  an existential crisis. If we are to have some impact on the increase in greenhouse gas emissions we have seen in recent years, then it is essential that fossil fuel consumption starts to decrease. It is not enough that some renewable energy sources have been increasing. These sources have to replace fossil fuels, not supplement them. We have to reduce our carbon footprint. In Canada that means the tar sands – one of the dirtiest forms of energy – must be left in the ground. We simply cannot follow a path that sees exports of diluted bitumen as a way to make short term profits at the expense of a habitable planet. We cannot plan to increase exports of coal or LNG either. Which, by the way is nothing like the clean fuel that Christy Clark likes to pretend (see: Methane Emissions in Texas Fracking Region 50% Higher Than EPA Estimates)

Of course I want to see Stephen Harper unseated at the upcoming election. If the NDP is really serious about its intentions to lead the next federal government, it would be making overtures to the Liberals to create an anti Conservative electoral pact. It is simply not good enough to hope that a coalition can be formed after the election. But that seems to be their current strategy. I do not think that the Liberals can be seen as “progressive” given the way that Paul Martin ran a more conservative than the conservatives economic strategy. And Trudeau Junior does not seem to me to be nearly as committed as his father – to anything at all! But he sure would like to be elected. And will say anything at all to make that possible.

And to those that still think that somehow the economy trumps the environment I can only say that they are just not paying attention. Renewable energy is showing itself to be a significantly better investment in terms of local employment – even if you disregard the huge environmental benefits. You also need to be blind to the current impacts of less than 2C of warming that we are currently experiencing. If you think long hot summers with droughts and forest fires are bad now,  I feel certain that what we are seeing now will seem mild in comparison to what is coming. The loss of the bees and the salmon seems to be getting some attention too. About time.

Notley again

“the energy sector needs stability to keep Albertans employed and to innovate as it confronts climate change.”

Which seems as usual to be pinning her hopes on the elusive carbon capture and storage which has always been  just around the corner – and always will be. At least Alberta is also a leader in wind energy – the Calgary LRT already runs exclusively on wind power. They will probably be beating us in solar panels and geothermal too, given the miniscule attempts being made in BC and our foolish commitments to Site C and run of the river.

Calgary Transit C Train

Pincher Creek

Afterword: and the BC NDP is no better.

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The LNG in question would be produced from fracking. Fugitive methane from fracking makes it worse from the GHG perspective than coal. BC LNG is unlikely to be cost competitive for the export markets it is aimed at: the Chinese, for example, have already signed a deal for Russian gas at a price BC could never match let alone beat. But if the BC NDP wants to claim it cares about the environment it cannot at the same time support more fracking for gas here.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 10, 2015 at 11:35 am

It wasn’t supposed to pass

with 16 comments

CMBC ETB 2171 on #16 Arbutus @ West Blvd & 57th

The word “blog” is a contraction of “web log”: a record of a “journey” across the web and the sites visited. The announcement of the results of the plebiscite on transportation investment funding produced the very rapid response we have come to expect on twitter and the instant analysis. Of course a lot of organisations were involved and most had their pre prepared press releases ready. Many claimed to have correctly predicted the outcome in advance. I had declined to appear on Global TV since I did not have such a position ready. But on reflection it became clear to me that the reason the question was made non-binding by Christy Clark was that she did not want to have to abide by an answer she did not like. And the glee that was evident on the face of Todd Stone when talking to the press pretty much confirmed that.

Of course I was not the only person to think that. Gary Mason of the Globe lists the reasons why “The referendum was an unmitigated disaster from the start.” Todd Stone doesn’t think it was a disaster – he thinks there should be more of them. But only for transit of course, not major road projects, or healthcare or education. Crawford Killian in the Tyee was far ahead of the Globe writing that the referendum was designed to fail back in February.

Much of the “analysis” was simply opinion based on preferred anecdotes. But there is some actual data based on surveys conducted by Insights West and Angus Reid. They come to similar conclusions about why people voted No. Of course since Jordan Bateman got busy far before the Yes side was even organised his simple message, the Translink was not to be trusted, got across. None of the subsequent analysis which showed that Translink is actually quite well managed dented that. Which is what I told the Vancouver Observer. The real problem is the governance model and that was created by The BC Liberals when the previous board of elected municipal officials (mostly Mayors) took exception to the way that the province wanted to put building the Canada Line ahead of the Evergreen Line (which is still not finished). So I cannot agree with Mario Canseco’s conclusion that reforming the way Translink operates ought to be the first priority – even if both Yes and No voters agree on that. It is the way it is governed that is the problem.

Discourse Media does have some good data driven information on what the No vote means. But no recommendations on what to do to achieve that. Richard Zussman of the CBC is good on why referenda are not the way to proceed. I think that means that if the province does propose another one we should organize a resounding boycott of the proceedings. Badly run referenda are designed to produce a negative response and I do not think that the province is actually interested in a better form of communication. Why would they when they got the result they desired.

The idea that I have proposed to reform Translink’s governance – a directly elected regional board – seems to be getting  some traction. There is growing disquiet too with Metro Vancouver – which is indirectly elected and also seen as remote from electoral control. If we were actually serious about doing regional planning and transportation properly, we would follow the example of cities like London, England or Portland, Oregon. I would be very surprised indeed if that actually happened. If anything at all I expect there will be some more shuffling of deck chairs on the Titanic. Maybe another name change and new livery: more communications/marketing bafflegab. No real change. It is a long time before we have another provincial election, and no matter how bad the government, if it simply ignores everything going on  – the scandals this government is surviving would have brought out the media in rage if it had been an NDP government – it might even get re-elected, despite its obvious incompetence.

So what happens now? Human Transit is, as always, very illuminating. And Peter Ladner has some penetrating analysis in Business in Vancouver.

And now (July 6) from Martyn Brown (“former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic advisor to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment in British Columbia.”)in the Georgia Straight:  The great TransLink railroad job: Why Christy Clark couldn’t be happier about the outcome of the transit referendum. Which makes for a very depressing read but is, no doubt, well informed and realistic.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 3, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Posted in politics

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