Saturday, June 03, 2006

On security needs

I don't have too much to add about the successful raid on an apparent terrorist cell that hasn't been discussed already. But it's worth noting that the issue had nothing at all to do with the immigration issues that CSIS is currently trying to push; and contrary to government plans last fall, it didn't require massive instrusions into Canadians' communications in order to enable CSIS to find and neutralize any threat.

Update: See Rusty Idols and My Blahg for more discussion of how the operation represents a victory for law enforcement rather than extralegal intrusions into the lives of Canadians.

On favours

From Jean Charest's comments yesterday, it would appear that he's turned against the Harper federal government completely. But I have to wonder whether he's ultimately trying to force an election now for the federal Cons' benefit:
Quebec Premier Jean Charest challenged Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe on Friday to bring down the minority federal government over its refusal to pay its share of a made-in-Quebec program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Charest said if Duceppe is serious about defending Quebec's interests, the Bloc will vote against the federal budget.

"If Gilles Duceppe wants to ... criticize the premier of Quebec, I invite him to do what people have mandated him to do in respect to his responsibilities," a combative Charest told reporters after signing a series of new agreements with Ontario.

"He represents Quebecers in the House of Commons. If he believes in what he is saying, unless it is empty rhetoric, well then he will vote against the budget in the House of Commons. So we'll see who has backbone."
Now, I'll readily agree with Charest that the budget isn't one that Duceppe should be supporting without some serious changes. But considering the frequency with which Charest and Harper are allied on particular issues (not to mention Charest's need to secure federal support to try to stay in power), it would be surprising to see Charest calling for the federal government's head already without at least some implicit approval from the federal Cons. Which makes it seem rather likely that Charest's call is simply a first step in a movement by the Cons to try to force an election before the Libs can sort out their leadership mess.

On gift horses

I can understand the inclination to see an article on health reform in Alberta, and assume that something dubious must be afoot. But I can't see why there'd be too much concern about the province's decision to allow pharmacists to prescribe certain types of drugs:
Starting this fall, pharmacists who complete a training program will be able to give and refill prescriptions without a doctor's authorization for a wide range of chronic illnesses, such as high blood pressure and asthma.

They will also be able to administer vaccines.

Certain addictive drugs, such as narcotics, will still require a doctor's approval for prescription refills.
Now, I can understand the need to ensure that pharmacists don't start making difficult judgment calls where a doctor is better qualified to do so, and I presume the program will be monitored to that effect. But when it comes to repeated and/or routine prescriptions, the change looks to me like a win-win situation for patients. Those who only want to receive their usual refill will save possibly a trip to the doctor and at least some administrative wrangling in doing so, while still seeing a trained professional who can refer the patient to a physician if there's a need to do so. Meanwhile, those who genuinely need to see a doctor will have more opportunity to do so thanks to an incremental reduction in the doctor's workload.

Again, it's understandable to be suspicious of any Klein reform in health care. But this one looks like one which simply makes publicly-funded health care more efficient...and those of us committed to preserving a strong public system should be glad to see that kind of progress.

(via liberal catnip.)

Friday, June 02, 2006


Template changes tonight to include a Progressive Bloggers vote link and Canadian Blog Exchange related topics link at the bottom of each post. Let me know if the new additions cause any problems.

On looking the other way

For those wondering how the Cons' undying trust in the responsibility of others is working out in Afghanistan, the predictable answer is "not well at all":
Canadian soldiers have intervened at least twice to prevent the summary execution of Taliban suspects captured on operations with the Afghan army, highlighting the moral murk confronting troops caught between government policy and the brutality of a still-violent country.

And the local representative of Afghanistan's independent human rights commission suspects that nearly a third of prisoners handed over by Canadians are abused and even tortured in Afghan jails...

Canadian soldiers have intervened at least twice to prevent the summary execution of Taliban suspects captured on operations with the Afghan army, highlighting the moral murk confronting troops caught between government policy and the brutality of a still-violent country.

And the local representative of Afghanistan's independent human rights commission suspects that nearly a third of prisoners handed over by Canadians are abused and even tortured in Afghan jails.
Unfortunately (for the Cons' position at least), international law isn't willing to look the other way to the same extent that Harper is:
Canada is also obliged under international law to ensure detainees are protected against torture and summary execution, even after they are transferred to Afghan custody.
Which means that Canada is at least in part responsible for the already-documented abuse, to say nothing of the potential for future (or undisclosed) escalation of what's known so far. And in the face of public information to the effect that the assurances received so far aren't accomplishing a thing, it's all the more negligent for anybody representing Canada to pretend that it's reasonable to rely on the same assurances in the future.

(Edit: cleaned up wording.)

Big Daddy to kids: "Go ask your mother"

Stephen Harper has declared his plan for helping cities, which consists entirely of making the issue the provinces' problem:
The federal government's commitment to tackle the fiscal imbalance with the provinces will ease the financial burden faced by municipalities, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says...

Harper has vowed to make solving the fiscal imbalance with provinces one of his key priorities. The provinces complain Ottawa retains too many tax dollars, leaving them struggling to provide services.

Harper said municipal and local officials must then work with their respective provinces on new funding deals...

Big city mayors arrived at the meeting armed with a report they issued on Thursday containing a number of recommendations, including (that) (t)he federal government should share revenue that grows with the economy, such as income tax and the federal goods and services tax.
It's questionable already whether whatever money gets handed back to the provinces through equalization increases will make up for funding lost on Kyoto, child care and other programs where planned federal inputs will no longer flow to the provinces. Now, Harper has made clear that the problem of municipal funding will also be left solely to the provinces to address from a pool of money that doesn't yet exist, and has largely already been spent to the extent that provinces follow through on their earlier plans.

Harper is quoted as criticizing the Libs' downloading as the reason why municipalities' debt and infrastructure difficulties. But it seems a rather curious response to the downloading problem to engage in yet another wave of it. And if the responsibilities downloaded exceed the resources provided by as wide a gap as appears likely, it won't be long before provinces recognize that any current imbalance has only become worse.

On reasons for opposition

Both Greg and Berlynn have already chimed in on this morning's report that some parts of the Accountability Act may be unconstitutional. But as far as I can tell, the issues surrounding this particular constitutional question seem to me to be less problematic than has been suggested so far.

From a foundational standpoint, I don't agree entirely with the implication that any statute which is of questionable constitutionality should be dropped by a government rather than pursued further. Prior to past decisions being released, it's been far from clear that current laws on issues ranging from tobacco control to political advertising would ultimately be upheld under the Charter. Similarly, the only reason why we now have a body of jurisprudence on the question of division of powers is the fact that past governments have decided to pass laws which were at least arguably subject to question.

This isn't to say, of course, that a law's constitutionality should be ignored. But in the case of all but the most obviously-unconstitutional legislation (of which a new ban on SSM may well be an example), it's generally worth examining whether the potential benefits of the law outweigh the risks of it being struck down.

With that out of the way, let's take a look at what constitutional issues seemingly raised by the Accountability Act. There appear to be two issues at stake: first, whether or not courts receive some authority to review some actions by cabinet ministers acting in their capacity as MPs, and second, the manner in which Parliament determines its voting procedures.

In each case, it's the affected group itself which will determine whether or not to pass the law in the first place, which eliminates the usual concerns about imposing a law on a group with no ability to fight it. The real issue is the extent to which Parliament has the ability through a majority vote on a bill to modify either the rights of a cross-section of its individual members, or the process by which parts of its internal procedure are determined. Yes, it is a constitutional issue, but more based on fine lines involving division of powers within the same body than on anything approaching important individual rights.

Moreover, future Parliaments will have the ability to restore the status quo ante in the future: obviously this Parliament couldn't bind a future Parliament which chose by a majority to pursue a different path. Needless to say, that ability to reverse the questionable statute isn't present for most people on the wrong end of a possible constitutional violation.

I'll grant that there's a serious need to look at the issues raised by Walsh (as well as other issues related to the Accountability Act) to determine whether the rewards do outweigh the risks, and in that regard the memos should be made available for review. But the presence of some advice to the effect that the legislation may violate traditional Parliamentary rights should be a much smaller issue than the substantive contents of the Accountability Act - both in terms of what the Cons have put in, and what they've omitted or planned to cut out. And if the Accountability Act does get shot down based to any substantial degree on arcane issues of Parliamentary privilege, that seems likely only to play into the Cons' hands when they claim that opposition obstruction is more of a problem than the potential for a Con majority.

(Edit: typo.)

A small step to nowhere

CanWest discusses the Cons' senate reform plan in a bit more detail. And it's worth noting that even the seemingly modest starting point is one which may not pass constitutional muster:
Several Liberal senators challenged the government's interpretation that the proposed constitutional amendment required to make the change does not require the approval of at least seven provinces, representing 50 per cent of the population.

Liberal Senator Percy Downe recalled that during his time working in the Prime Minister's Office under Jean Chretien, the Justice Department advised on more than one occasion that such an amendment would require so-called "seven-50" approval in order to be constitutional...

Liberal Senator Sharon Carstairs, whose father was also a senator, argued that eight-year terms should be considered a "fundamental change" to the chamber and require the approval of the provinces.
I presume some of the past advice will become public in greater detail as the Harper proposal gets debated; for now there are at least plausible arguments to be made on both sides, and it may well take a judicial challenge of a final bill (or, if Harper is thinking ahead, an SCC reference) to determine just what can and can't be done without provincial approval.

Also of interest is the fact that Marjory LeBreton, Harper's point person on Senate reform, apparently sees it as a selling point that current Senators and others could potentially be elected to the Senate long after the current age-75 limit for appointments. As I argued yesterday, the formal barriers to entry or continuation in the Senate seems like a good place to start, but dealing with the upper age limit alone seems like an odd way of going about it. After all, has Canada really been suffering for lack of Strom Thurmonds in our upper chamber?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

On wilful ignorance

Diane Finley has claimed that no child-care spaces were created in her riding even though 100 actually were. Jim Prentice is now claiming that no money went to help rebuild Kashechewan after last year's rebuilding agreement, even though $9 million apparently found its way there. Are the Cons actually paying the slightest bit of attention to how the Libs ran the country (and how to improve on that standard), or are they merely reflexively denying that the federal government did anything but send troops to Afghanistan over the past 13 years?

(Edit: typo.)

On winning allies

Lorne Calvert has won a surprising convert to the cause of removing natural resource revenues from the equalization formula, as Dalton McGuinty has come onside with a position previously pushed only by Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Cons' federal platform:
After meeting with Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert on Thursday, McGuinty said he won't oppose excluding non-renewable resource revenues for the complicated federal revenue-sharing formula.

"I've told Lorne that I certainly will not argue against that," McGuinty told reporters at the Saskatchewan legislature.

"I've come away today with a much better understanding of Saskatchewan's perspective and I also must say that I don't know how the prime minister is going to be able to move away from the commitment he made to exclude non-renewables from the calculations of equalization."
The move is particularly surprising in light of Harper's decision to reclassify the Cons' campaign promise as a "preference". With the Cons' position in doubt, it seems highly likely that a concerted effort from central and eastern Canada could have isolated Saskatchewan and Alberta on the issue. But it's a testament to Calvert that he was able to persuade McGuinty...and the effect is to send the ball back into Harper's court.

With one of the provinces which figured to be a major opponent of the cause now working with Calvert on the issue, Harper will face the choice of keeping his promise after all and losing some face with Charest and Lord, or utterly betraying his party's base solely in order to win favour in Quebec and the Maritimes. And with Ontario not taking a strong position one way or the other, that leaves a strong likelihood that this time Harper's desire to push further into Quebec won't be the deciding factor.

Getting nowhere

Despite Harper's best efforts to fabricate confrontation then stomp his feet while complaining that he can't get anything done in a minority Parliament, and despite the Cons' attempts to muzzle their less sane members, the Canadian public isn't any more eager to see a Con majority now than it was during the 2006 campaign:
Canadians may be willing to re-elect Stephen Harper's Conservatives but they're hesitant about a Tory majority, a new national poll suggests.

The Decima survey put support for the Conservatives at 38 per cent - slightly higher than on election day but lower than other recent polls. Forty-three per cent of respondents said they wanted to see the Conservatives win the next election, but just 30 per cent said they'd like to see Harper form a majority government.
Compare to the numbers from a poll taken December 29-31:
Nationwide, the poll found 52 per cent of respondents considered the prospect of a Liberal majority undesirable, while 25 per cent found it desirable and 23 per cent found it acceptable.

The results were almost identical for a Tory majority: 56 per cent found that prospect undesirable, 25 per cent desirable and 19 per cent acceptable.
In sum, the Cons' honeymoon period has done little to nothing to increase Canadians' confidence in Harper as a majority PM. And based on the Cons' meager record in government, it's hard to see how that confidence could possibly increase heading into the next federal election.

On upper-chamber renovations

A couple of thoughts on the Cons' bill on Senate tenure.

First, the bill scrupulously avoids imposing any new tenure limit on current Senators for now. But for the future, it still seem awfully likely that Harper will end up running into a roadblock of current Lib Senators...and once there's a precedent for setting term limits through legislation, it's not hard to anticipate Harper trying to apply it to existing terms in the future. Which means that it's understandable that the current Senate is being cautious about opening the door at all.

Second, it's interesting also that in making a small step to open up the Senate to institutional change, Harper isn't starting with the formal age- and property-related barriers to Senate appointment in ss. 23(1), (3) and (4) of the Constitution Act, 1867. Indeed, the current bill specifically maintains the application of s. 31 (which provides in part for removal from the Senate where a Senator falls below the initial property ownership requirement) to current Senators.

Of course, the greater potential application of the barriers would be in the case of people elected to a Senate position (whether through existing provincial processes or a future federal one), who could either be on the lower side of 30, or fail to meet the property ownership requirement. So it appears likely that the change would have to be made at some point in any event in order for the Cons to reach their final goal of an elected Senate.

The artificial barriers should be a less controversial point of attack if one wanted to try to make the Senate a more legitimate body than it is now, and it doesn't appear that there would be any more constitutional difficulty in changing them than in adding a future term limit. But instead of starting with the easier target, the Cons have chosen to pursue a reduction in stability for future Senate members without opening the door to anybody who's currently (arbitrarily) ineligible for the Senate. And it'll be interesting to hear their explanation for finding that to be a more worthwhile effort.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

That wonderful Con consistency

So let's get this straight. According to Rona Ambrose and other Cons, the Kyoto Protocol is utterly useless because some of the world's largest emitters wouldn't face any restrictions until the second phase of the agreement. But when it comes to a "partnership" where the largest partner refuses to do anything...well, what could be wrong with that?

Nicely played

While the provinces make their case for child care funding, Olivia Chow highlights the taxbacks within the Cons' "child care plan":
At a press conference in Ottawa today, NDP Children and Youth Critic Olivia Chow (Trinity – Spadina), unveiled a giant cheque for $224 million, made out to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This cheque - presented as a gift in the name of parents and kids who need child care - represents the government's windfall federal tax grab from working families who receive the so-called Universal Child Care Benefit, according to the respected Caledon Institute.

"A lot of families, who have already been left hanging on waiting lists for child care spaces, are in for another rude awakening next year when they see their tax bill,” said Chow. “They’ll be sending big cheques back to Ottawa, the overall total will mean $224 million in federal income tax on the Benefit. And the hardest hit Canadians will be single parents and working families, while the lowest taxes may be paid by the stay-at-home spouses in wealthier families.”

Chow says that rather than giving with one hand and taking with the other, the government should secure child care for those who need it, and transfer this $224 million tax grab to the provinces to create child care spaces.
Unfortunately, the limited request made by the provinces so far may make it difficult to secure an amount toward actual child care comparable to that implied by the NDP's stand. But then, the provinces' suggestion may also start to sound good to Diane Finley when compared even to the amount taxed back under the Cons' plan. It only remains to be seen whether Chow's position receives enough attention and support to force the Cons' hand.

On positions of convenience

With Gordon O'Connor now trying to claim that Canada's mission in Afghanistan doesn't involve a war, and the Cons arguing that the Geneva Convention is thus of no application, it's worth taking a look at whether that's been a consistent position for the Cons. And to nobody's surprise, the answer is...not so much.

For example, here's Stephen Harper a couple of months back:
When it was suggested that people oppose the mission because it's not Canada's war, Harper quickly interjected.

"But it is our war."
And lest this appear to be another difference of perspective between Harper and O'Connor, O'Connor himself has argued that Afghanistan is a "war" for the purposes of the Geneva Conventions:
We are quite satisfied with the agreement. It protects prisoners under the Geneva agreement and all other war agreements.
And for good measure:
I would imagine that we also keep track of the prisoners that we capture, that is, we know whom we captured by name, et cetera, and that there would be a way for us to check on where these prisoners are and how they are treated. Also the Red Cross can be sent in to check on prisoners in war zones.
In other words, in addition to being wrong on their face, the current word games don't reflect anything approaching a consistent Con position either. Which means that if the readily foreseeable results of trying to deny that a war is a war come to pass, the Cons won't even be able to claim to have stuck to any consistent principle other than a desire to maximize their own power.

Update: According to the latest O'Connor spin, the Geneva Convention is being applied in Afghanistan, even though it doesn't technically apply and Canada won't hold anybody to it. I'm sure there's no way that sort of confusion could go wrong.

On stonewalling

While the provinces are doing their best to propose a compromise on child care, so far Diane Finley is too busy ignoring the spaces already created in her own riding to listen:
The provinces and territories were rebuffed by federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley as they presented a united front asking for the Tories to provide money to the provinces for child-care spaces.

NDP Learning Minister Deb Higgins said the provinces thought the Conservatives might be becoming more flexible on the potential use of the $250-million annually it has pledged for tax breaks and grants to create child-care spaces starting next year.

"The frustration for us was that it really provided no validation for the plans and the work and the experience that comes out of the provinces and the territories," Higgins told reporters at the legislature outside a meeting of the provincial cabinet Tuesday morning. "The big concern is that if they spend $250-million on developing spaces, who pays for the ongoing operations and how is that accommodated for? (Finley) again talked about these spaces being self-sustaining, which is pretty impractical when you're looking at lower or low-income families ... There was a fairly blunt meeting in the afternoon and I have to say a fair bit of frustration coming out of it."
If anything, the provinces' willingness to work with the $250 million as the guiding number for creating spaces is more of a concession than they should have had to make. As I've discussed before, a genuine compromise should involve enough funding going to the provinces to make up for the number of spaces which are planned for under the Con plan.

But even with the provinces asking for less than they could be reasonably seeking, the result so far has been a deaf ear from the Cons. And it's not hard to understand the provinces' frustration under those circumstances.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

On vicious cycles

The CP reports that due to another anticipated hot summer, Ontario's government is once again planning to push back its target date to take Ontario's coal-fired power plants out of service. And with the country's largest emissions-reduction initiative once again put on the back burner, Ontarians may have all the more hot summers to look forward to in the future.

On slow progress

The Privacy Commissioner's annual report to Parliament was released today to little fanfare:
In her annual report to Parliament on Tuesday, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart promised her office will be "more assertive ensuring all businesses are complying" with the five-year-old federal act protecting personal information.

"We are considering seeking amendments that would give the privacy commissioner the discretion to visit private sector entities and review their privacy management framework and practices," said the report, adding this power could be used "even when a privacy breach has not become public."...

(T)he privacy commissioner says her office needs stable, longterm funding and an increased budget - as well as more broadly defined powers - to carry out more privacy audits.
While it would certainly be a plus to see those types of changes, what seems more interesting to me in the report itself is that Stoddart appears mostly satisfied with the current enforcement mechanisms, under which the Privacy Commissioner is only able to make recommendations rather than binding orders:
As familiarity with privacy standards increases, so does the expectation that they will be observed. It is no longer acceptable that violations of personal information protection norms do not lead to direct remedial action. In 2005, I began asking organizations that are the subject of well-founded complaints to state the corrective measures they would take. I would then decide whether to seek a remedy for the complainant in Federal Court. To date, in the few situations where I have used this approach, almost all organizations have rapidly committed to providing redress and making systemic changes.

We continue to monitor whether the systemic changes we recommended have occurred in response to complaints made in previous years. Again, the overall compliance rate is high and, once we intervene following a complaint, the level of cooperation by organizations is generally commendable.
It's understandable to some extent that Stoddart's current priority is to secure enough funding and government support for the Privacy Commissioner to be able to exercise the office's current powers. But in the longer term, one has to figure that the current lack of "direct remedial action" will give rise to a need to extend the Commissioner's powers beyond merely making recommendations. And it's a shame that such a goal seems distant enough that Stoddart's current report doesn't make any significant push in that direction.

On appreciating one's benefits

David Himmelstein of Harvard analyzes data from the Joint Canada/U.S. Survey of Health and confirms the obvious: that Canadians pay less than Americans for better health care, but that Americans are for some reason happier with their worse and more expensive care. Funny how actually having access to care tends to lead to higher expectations.

A new voice

For now, health-care issues seem to be largely on the back burner. But next time they come to the forefront, there will be a new group of medical practitioners fighting to strengthen the public system:
"Canadians deserve and expect more," Doctors for Medicare said in a prepared statement, noting the endorsement last summer by a majority of CMA delegates of private health-care insurance for patients who don't get timely treatment through the publicly funded system...

The group cited concern about recent "close calls" with privatization in health-care proposals of Alberta and Quebec. "Both Quebec and Alberta have looked over the precipice and, fortunately, stepped back and made the right choices," said Dr. Tom Noseworthy, a Calgary critical-care specialist who chairs the Western Canada waiting-list project.

"But it's going to happen again and we should focus our energy and our efforts on a publicly funded universal system and stop believing in the myths that a private parallel system will make us better off, because it won't."
It remains to be seen whether the new group will receive as much press as is given to similar groups backing privatization. But it's still a plus to know there's one more organized ally in the fight to preserve a universal and public health-care system.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Opportunity and risk

Having gutted the existing Kyoto policy and pulled funding away from the development of alternatives, surely the Cons should at least be willing to put some money into one of the few environmentally-friendly developments that they're actually willing to publicly support, right? Sadly, not so much, as a Canadian ethanol innovator is looking at building in the U.S. for lack of Canadian government support:
Canada's Iogen Corp. is the best in the world at converting plant fibre into ethanol -- today's hot alternative fuel -- but the biotechnology leader could end up building its first commercial-scale operation in the United States if Ottawa doesn't match support offered by Washington...

(Iogen's) first commercial-scale plant would cost about $260-million (U.S.), and most of this would have to be borrowed if the project seeks private-sector lending.

But private-sector lenders are anxious about lending for a pioneering technology -- and require a government guarantee -- even though Canada and the United States are set to boost consumption of the biofuel. Ottawa and the provinces have agreed on a target to mandate that gasoline and diesel contain 5 per cent biofuel by 2010.

"Lenders are nervous of new technology -- mandate or no mandate. A mandate doesn't create a market for new technology. Somebody has to step up to the plate and share the risk of commercializing new technology with the private sector," Mr. Passmore said.
Note that the requested support isn't direct investment, only a guarantee against a private loan. Which means that at worst, the result could be an investment in a risk worth taking...and at best, a guarantee could wind up costing nothing while ensuring that Canada is home to an important step forward in ethanol production.

The article suggests that Iogen hasn't yet "had a chance" to discuss the matter with Harper's government. But it's hard to see how that would be the case if the Cons were giving serious attention to Iogen's efforts. It may soon be too late to enable Canada to take a lead role on greenhouse gas emissions even by the Cons' unduly narrow terms...and it'll take much more effective action than we've seen from the Con camp so far to get the job done.

On not wanting to know

CBC reports that in addition to cutting actual emissions-reduction programs, the Cons are also pulling funding for feasibility studies on future projects:
A Saskatchewan feasibility study on building a $1-billion "near-zero-emission" coal-fired electricity plant is on hold for now.

Ottawa is reviewing both the proposed study on the coal plant and a second proposal — a feasibility study on a "polygeneration" plant that would use gasified coal to power industry.
It's bad enough that the Cons have hacked away at programs which were going to make some progress in reducing emissions. But at a stage when the Cons are supposed to be developing their own solution, it's all the more inexcusable that they're shutting down research as to which projects will represent the best investment in the long run.


The CanWest papers are trumpeting a poll reflecting Canadians' lack of knowledge about Kyoto. But it can't be helping matters that the poll itself seems to have gone out of its way to misinform those polled on the issue:
Guilbeault suggested some of the questions in the poll may have been biased, including one that asked whether people would support Kyoto if it resulted in 200,000 job cuts and $16 billion in economic losses.

"This is such crap," said Guilbeault. "The Quebec industrial sector reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 9.9 per cent between 1990 and 2003, (and) increased production. So that's 11/2 times Kyoto, and I didn't see them laying people off and losing billions of dollars of money. This is ridiculous."
Funny how any question about whether people would support Kyoto if it prevents Canada's coastal areas from ending up underwater seems to have missed the cut, even though there's at least as strong a causal connection to be drawn to that outcome than to purely speculative job losses.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

On divisive choices

Wouldn't it be ironic if the Cons' effort to cozy up to Bush by refusing to seriously challenge the impending border requirement ends up causing people from both countries to stop making the effort to deal with each other?

From bad to worse

While the headline focuses on the Libs' failings, a C.D. Howe Institute report highlights the fact that neither the Libs nor the Cons has anything to be proud of when it comes to dealing with greenhouse gas emissions:
The Liberals' $12-billion plan to implement the Kyoto Protocol over seven years would have been largely ineffective, says an as-yet unpublished report by the C.D. Howe Institute...

(According to the report, Project Green) would have reduced emissions by 175 megatonnes compared with a business-as-usual scenario, far short of the 230 to 300 Mt. reduction required to meet Canada's Kyoto target...

Prime Minister Stephen Harper could use the report to buttress his claims about the ineffectiveness of the Liberal plan, but he probably won't like the alternatives it recommends.

The most effective policy would likely be a gradually rising tax on greenhouse gas emissions, combined with reductions in other taxes to ensure no net tax increase, says the report.

The main Conservative response to climate change so far has been to make transit passes tax deductible, which experts say will have little effect on emissions.
As noted in the article, the most important lesson to take from the report is that voluntary standards are essentially doomed to failure. It'll take decisive action, not mere suggestion, to make any real dent in greenhouse gas emissions. And if neither the past government nor the current one has shown any willingness to consider the possibility, that speaks only to their lack of interest in doing more than giving the appearance of caring about the issue.

On dictating terms

Last night, I discussed Alberta's plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions using an "intensity" standard rather than one which would actually result in emission reductions. I didn't deal with the curious argument that the standard would be the "toughest" in Canada, a claim which flies in the face of the stated intention of at least two provinces to meet the Kyoto standard. On further reflection, though, I have to wonder whether the claim is an attempt to set the terms of any harmonization of provincial regulations.

After all, I'd noted a few weeks ago that Alberta and B.C. are working toward an agreement which "forces both governments to harmonize rules and regulations to the higher of the two standards". Might Alberta be trying now to claim that its intensity-based standard is "higher" in order to avoid being bound by Kyoto-based regulations in a later expansion of the regulatory accord?