Thursday, February 19, 2015

Here's How Liberal Party's Lougheed & Sorbara Will be Vindicated over Alleged Elections Act Contraventions

What can we learn from the Ontario Chief Electoral Officer’s Report, made public earlier today, regarding the alleged contraventions made to the Elections Act by local Liberal Gerry Lougheed and the Premier’s Chief of Staff, Pat Sorbara? Certainly, there are the obvious conclusions – that there was a level of interference in the Sudbury by-election which may have contravened the Elections Act and the Election Finances Act. But I’m not going to focus on those matters, as I’m sure that others will be talking about those contraventions over the next few weeks and months.

Instead, I’d like to draw your attention to Page 10 of the Report, in which the Chief Electoral Officer lays out his rationale for concluding that there were apparent contraventions. On Page 10, the Chief Electoral Officer makes references to what a “candidate” is for the purpose of an election. I’ll reproduce that section of the Report here in its entirety.

The meaning of “Candidate”

This complaint relates to conduct in relation to candidates. Section 1 of the Election Act defines a candidate as follows:

“candidate at an election” and “candidate” mean a person elected to serve in the Assembly and a person who is nominated as a candidate at an election or is declared by himself or herself or by others to be a candidate on or after the date of the issue of the writ or after the dissolution or vacancy in consequence of which the writ has been issued.

“election” means an election of a member or members to serve in the Assembly (Emphasis added) A person cannot be properly characterized as a “candidate at an election” prior to the issuance of a writ for election. In the case of an individual who makes a declaration subsequent to a dissolution or vacancy, the definition of “candidate” means the scenario in which a writ “has” already been issued.

The conduct that is prohibited by s. 96.1(e) can take place before the issuance of a writ. For example, a person can contravene s. 96.1(e) by inducing an individual – before an election is even called -- to refrain from being a candidate before a writ is issued. This can be determined by looking at the nature and circumstances of the communications and understandings between the individuals.



In short, the CEO indicates that while Andrew Olivier did not meet the definition of a “candidate”, a contravention to the Act still might have occurred if he was bribed to step aside before the writ was issued.

And that, I fear, is where the Chief Electoral Officer’s rationale for an apparent contravention having occurred breaks down. If Olivier wasn’t a candidate – and could not have become a candidate in any circumstances – where is the apparent contravention?

Was Olivier a Candidate?

Andrew Olivier was never a candidate. While he had announced his intention to seek the Liberal Party’s nomination after the Sudbury riding was declared vacant, the Liberal Party never opened its nomination process. In fact, there was no nomination to be had. Instead of a nomination process, the Premier eventually appointed a candidate. So not only was Olivier not an election candidate at the time of the alleged contravention having occurred, he was not a nomination contestant either – because there was no nomination to be had.

A declaration of interest in seeking the Liberal Party’s nomination does not make one a nomination contestant. The Liberal Party of Ontario, like all mature political parties in Canada, has a process to follow to become a nomination contest. That process includes an up-front screening of a potential candidate based on the submission of an application. Only after a nomination contestant has been “greenlighted” by the Party can they be considered a nomination contestant.

And even had this situation occurred, it would not have made Olivier a “candidate” as per the legislation – at least not until the writ was dropped.

If You Can't be the Candidate, You Can't Be Bribed to Not Be the Candidate

Although as per the CEO’s interpretation of Section 96.1(e), that a contravention can occur pre-writ, if an individual receives an inducement to not be a candidate, the fact of the matter here is that Olivier, despite his public statement that he was seeking the nomination, there was never a nomination in play which he could have sought.

Remember: both Gerry Lougheed and Pat Sorbara were equivocal about this: the Premier could use her authority to appoint a candidate, so there would be no nomination contest (Lougheed said that it was the Premier's preference to have a contest - one apparently ending with an acclamation for Glenn Thibeault - Sorbara was clearer: that a decision about an appointment was going to have to be made by the Premier). Therefore, knowing that there was no nomination contest on the table or underway at the time of their conversations with Olivier, they were unable to offer Olivier an inducement to stop seeking the candidacy, because there was no candidacy to be sought at that time. Both would have preferred that Olivier and Matichuk stepped back from seeking the nomination, and that a rigged "contest" starring just one contestant could have been held (with Olivier playing game-show host MC leading the call for Glenn's "nomination"). But with Glenn in the game now, they knew he could not face an actual contested nomination (likely because there was no way he was going to be able to sell more memberships than Olivier - but I'm speculating here). Since a contested nomination wasn't in the cards, from their perspective, they couldn't have made an offer to Olivier to induce him to stop seeking the nomination - they knew it wasn't going to happen.

I think that the Chief Electoral Officer may have erred in judgement here. Now before everybody goes ballistic on me for this, let me be clear: I believe that what Olivier was offered by Lougheed and Sorbara was tantamount to a bribe – but it was a bribe to keep quiet, not a bribe to stop him from seeking office. The decision had been made by the Premier prior to these conversations that neither Olivier or Marianne Matichuk were going to be able to become the Ontario Liberal Party’s candidate for the Sudbury riding, because the Premier was going to appoint someone else.

I’m not sure where that leaves the criminal proceedings, but as far as the Elections Act goes, I just can’t see how offering a job to someone who can’t be a candidate is in any way, shape or form an inducement to that individual to refrain from seeking the candidacy.

Again, this isn’t to justify the actions of Lougheed and Sorbara – nor is to cast aspersion on Andrew Olivier. Olivier didn’t file the complaints with Elections Ontario or with the police. He hasn’t done anything wrong here. If Lougheed and Sorbara are eventually vindicated for the reasons I’ve identified or for other reasons, that can in no way taint Olivier – unless additional information comes to light that we don’t know about right now. And that doesn’t seem likely.

All that I’m suggesting is that I see some wiggle room here for the implicated Liberals. I'm not a lawyer - but if I can see it, I suspect it will be seen by Lougheed’s and Sorbara’s legal counsel. They'll make a case that you can’t bribe someone to refrain from seeking a position which they could never have attained.

You can't be bribed to not be the candidate if you never could have been the candidate in the first place.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Freeze Development Around Ramsey Lake Until Priority Ramsey Lake Watershed Study is Completed

The following is an open letter to the City of Greater Sudbury’s Finance and Administration Committee – a Council committee of the whole – regarding the 2015 capital budget for infrastructure.

-----

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input into the City of Greater Sudbury’s consideration of its’ proposed capital budget for infrastructure. I understand that the budget being considered by the Committee does not include a specific line item for priority watershed studies.

Priority watershed and subwatershed studies have been identified as a requirement for the City since at least 2005, when the City’s first Official Plan for the amalgamated City referenced their need. Despite being a requirement of the City’s Plan, over the past decade, not one study has been prepared by the City.

In 2013, the City of Greater Sudbury recommitted itself to preparing a subwatershed study for Ramsey Lake – a lake which is both our recreational jewel in the urban core of our community, and a drinking water source for tens of thousands of Sudburians (see: “Greater Sudbury City Council unanimously passes motion in support of watershed studies”, Naomi Grant, Grassroots Sudbury Media Co-op, May 16, 2013).

The Ramsey Lake watershed study would assess risks from the cumulative impacts of development. Right now, development is proceeding in the watershed without the benefit of a full range of information – information which we would know if the watershed study had been completed.

Now, the CBC is reporting that the City hasn’t moved forward with the watershed study at all, as other priorities appear to have got in the way (see: “Ramsey Lake protection study work slows to a trickle”, CBC, February 9, 2015). If this is true, it’s an unacceptable circumstance, as the long-term health of our drinking water source should be of paramount importance to the corporation of the City of Greater Sudbury.

In the past, I’ve written extensively on the need for a Ramsey Lake watershed study to assist decision-makers in guiding new development proposals (see: “Lack of Attention to Lake Water Quality Contributing to Systemic Public Concerns in Greater Sudbury”, the Sudbury Media Co-Op, July 27, 2014; “Knee-Jerk Reaction on Parking Lot Approval Another Missed Opportunity to Prioritize Livability in Greater Sudbury”, August 12, 2014; and, “May: Planning needed to protect water”, the Sudbury Star, August 16, 2014). I continue to maintain that the City’s long-term economic interests would be best served by completing the Ramsey Lake Watershed Study.

Until the Ramsey Lake Watershed Study has been completed, I urge Council to consider freezing new development within the watershed. Under Section 38 of the Planning Act, Council has the authority to enact an interim control by-law which would prohibit new development proposals going forward until such a time that an appropriate study to guide development has been completed – in this case, the Ramsey Lake watershed study. Further, Council should set aside funding for the completion of this priority study in the 2015 budget.

I sincerely hope that the Finance and Administration Committee take these requests seriously. For too long, the City has been dithered over the Ramsey Lake watershed study – a study called for in our Official Plan. Development has continued to proceed in the watershed, and the consequences of those decisions are largely unknown. In the future, we taxpayers could be paying for decisions made without the benefit of the best available information.

Please enact an Interim Control By-law for the Ramsey Lake watershed, and fund the Ramsey Lake Watershed study.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Alternative Transportation in Greater Sudbury - Past Time for Real Action

The following is an open letter to the City of Greater Sudbury’s Finance and Administration Committee – a Council committee of the whole – regarding the 2015 capital budget for infrastructure.

-----

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input into the City of Greater Sudbury’s consideration of its’ proposed capital budget for infrastructure. I understand that there has been a public consultation process which preceded the consideration of the capital budget. Through this public consultation process, Council heard from several community groups regarding the need for dedicated funding for cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. I understand that despite these requests, the capital budget which is now being considered by Council fails to incorporate any dedicated funding for alternative transportation infrastructure.

This situation has become intolerable.

Greater Sudbury is being left behind in terms of our economic competitiveness, thanks to decisions made by our elected officials which continue to prioritize the needs of automobiles over the needs of people. Alternative transportation systems, such as cycling routes, pedestrian infrastructure and transit, have long had the appearance of being considered as an “after thought”. The prioritization of people over cars has led to a built-form environment which is affecting our City’s competitiveness in the Ontario, and indeed the global, marketplace.

It has long been known that cities which thrive are those which prioritize people over motorized vehicles. Starting with the works of Richard Florida back at the beginning of this century, the notion of a creative class of knowledge-based urbanites leading the way in job creation and innovation has taken hold in many parts of the province. This creative class is highly mobile, and therefore can be quite selective regarding the locations in which they consider for employment. For the creative class, amenities such as livability are priorities over shaving a few minutes of time off of a motorized commute.

The City of Greater Sudbury is anticipating only modest growth over the next 20 years. The City’s official plan update indicates that only about 10,500 people will be added to our community under a realistic growth scenario over the next 20 years – and even this projection may be ambitious should the global economy find itself in trouble. This trend, coupled with an aging population, means that our City is going to have be that much more careful with how we use our limited financial resources to make the City a better place for all of us to live. Growth can’t be relied on to drive the City’s economic engine. As a result, we can’t afford not to be strategic with spending – we need to spend money wisely.

Other communities in the North, such as Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay, are investing in livability in a way that puts the City of Greater Sudbury to shame. Upgrades to cycling infrastructure, including on-street lanes which connect to transportation nodes, have routinely been made in other northern cities and towns. Walking as a legitimate and healthy transportation choice has been facilitated by investing in infrastructure which provide pedestrians with prioritized access. Yet, in Greater Sudbury, even the smallest connections in alternative transportation systems seem to take years to come to fruition, and then they are often off-set by significant decisions made elsewhere.

We can’t continue to miss opportunities to make our City more livable. We missed a significant opportunity when Paris Street was being upgraded and resurfaced. We missed another opportunity with the Notre Dame / Lasalle intersection. We missed yet another one with the upgrades being made to MR 80 and Main Street through Val Caron. All of this costly infrastructure projects proceeded without due consideration to cycling or walking as a viable means of transport.

Next week, Planning Committee will be considering a motion to partner with the Canadian Urban Institute to develop an age-friendly community planning strategy, which will in turn support healthy and active lifestyles for older adults and all citizens. The basis for healthy and active lifestyles starts with ensuring that opportunities exist for cycling and walking – not just as recreational activities, but as viable means of transportation.

As reported by the CBC last year, Greater Sudbury is now Canada’s second-most obese City (see: “Sudbury second-most obese city in Canada: Stats Can”, CBC, October 20, 2014). Our community continues to struggle with health-related issues for many reasons – but clearly one has to do with the urban design which we have chosen over the past several decades which has favoured car-dependent suburbanization and development in exurban areas over more intense transit-supportive forms of development. Clearly, this has to change. And it has to change now. We can’t afford to lose yet another year before we get serious with the recommendations made to Council through the Sustainable Mobility Plan for the City of Greater Sudbury back in 2010.

The City has insisted that it can’t take action until the Transportation Master Plan has been updated and accepted by Council as part of the City’s 5-year review of the Official Plan. The Transportation Study – which has already been used to justify the widening of Second Avenue for vehicular traffic – is three years overdue and counting. Both the Sustainable Mobility Advisory Panel and the City’s Bicycling Technical Master Plan for the City of Greater Sudbury, prepared by the Bicycle Advisory Panel (since disbanded) have made reports which were previously accepted by Council – both of these reports could and should form the basis of providing additional alternative transportation infrastructure in our community.

Recently, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities held its annual Sustainable Communities conference in London, Ontario. On the agenda were numerous items dealing with creating robust and healthy alternative transportation systems. The City of Greater Sudbury recently voted to invite FCM to hold its 2017 Board of Directors meeting in our community. I fear that our City’s lack of attention to fostering livability through its negligence in developing alternative transportation systems may be on display on a national stage should the FCM come to town – unless significant action is taken by Council on the meantime.

Community groups such as the Coalition for a Livable Sudbury and the Sudbury Cyclists Union have asked that $800,000 of the roads budget – a small fraction of the overall budget – be set aside for the development of new cycling infrastructure. This request is reasonable and ought to be a priority of the Finance and Administration Committee. The allocation of funds for new infrastructure will represent a decent starting point for the City to finally begin moving forward with developing the alternative transportation systems we need to have in place to be competitive in the 21st Century.

Council should follow up this decision by requiring staff to develop a “Complete Streets” policy, in consultation with the public. And if staff are concerned about the costs of developing such a strategy, I hope that Council will look to anticipated budget expenditures for new roads and for expanding existing roads – many of which may not be necessary given the low levels of growth anticipated in our City over the next 20 years. At the very least, projects such as the Second Avenue road expansion, the $3.5 million Barrydowne road widening and the Maley Drive extension could be put on hold while the City prepares a cost/benefit analysis to determine their utility.

At this time in the City’s history, spending money on more roads isn’t what we need. We need to carefully consider how best to invest our limited resources – and focus on prioritizing people over cars. The City’s future economic health depends on us starting to make decisions of this nature. Other northern cities are well ahead of us in this department – Greater Sudbury needs to start playing catch-up.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sustainability, Not Growth, Increasingly the Focus of Development

The idea that economic growth is good is one which has been embedded in our way of thinking now for several generations. In the 20th Century, both capitalist and communist societies pursued growth as a means of creating prosperity. In the first part of the 21st Century, however, the growth paradigm has found itself challenged by the more environmentally and socially responsible concept of sustainable development.

The sustainable development concept only entered the public consciousness in a big way after the publication of “Our Common Future” in 1987. Also known as “the Brundtland Report” after the Chair of the United Nation’s World Commission for Environment and Development, Gro Harlem Brundtland, the report firmly established the environmental agenda as an important global political and economic consideration for decision-makers.

The Brundtland Report defined sustainable development as, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This short definition revolutionized the lens through which economic development in the 21st Century is being assessed. It’s set in motion many of today’s growing list of conflicts between industry and government on the one hand, and the environmental and social justice movements on the other.

Conflicts have arisen because the emergent concept of sustainable development is on a collision course with the reigning economic growth paradigm. However, increasingly economists and political decision makers are coming to realize that infinite growth can’t be sustained on a planet of finite resources.

The pursuit of growth, while having created prosperity for some, has left many others behind, and today we are burdened by a growing wealth gap between the rich and the rest of us. It’s also led to perverse environmental outcomes, where businesses and industry have been allowed to pollute or soil, water and atmosphere with little or no cost. Instead, taxpayers are left to pick up the tab for pollution.

Yet, economic growth remains a popular paradigm. Let’s face it – we are all used to hearing how we must grow the economy if we are to prosper. Our media have continually portrayed stories about growth as positive events, while slow growth or no growth in our economy is something to be feared.

Closer to home, Greater Sudbury’s Mayor, Brian Bigger, has insisted that our City must grow in order to meet our challenges (see: "Greater Sudbury needs to grow its economy", Brian Bigger, the Sudbury Star, January 20, 2015). Bigger’s Vision 2025 development strategy appears to be one which requires growth to succeed. But what if growth in our community happens only to a small degree – or not at all?

While Greater Sudbury is projected to grow over the next 20 years, anticipated growth will be very modest – as little as 10,500 additional persons, according to the City’s own figures.

But even this growth could end up costing the City more money in the long run to service than we might first think. With household sizes across the province shrinking due to an aging population, our community continues to build itself outwards. Studies have shown that for every tax dollar collected from new residential development, providing services to new residents ends up costing more – especially where urban sprawl is preferred over intensification. The notion that growth pays for itself is a myth.

We are slowly coming to realize that any conversation about development and growth has to have at its heart the notion of sustainability, rather than growth for growth’s sake. As we move forward into the 21st Century, we will continue to see a shift away from last century’s growth-centred paradigm towards one of sustainability. Our leaders at the federal, provincial and municipal levels of governance ought to take note.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

Originally published as "Sustainability must be focus of development", the Sudbury Star, Saturday, February 7, 2015 (print and online), without hyperlinks.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sudbury By-Election Shows the NDP in Eclipse

Wow. What the heck just happened here? Apparently – the unthinkable. Watching the #Sudbury hashtag on Twitter last night, which was trending nationally after the polls closed at 9 PM Eastern Time – our city took a verbal beating from the twitterati for having the – I don’t know what, so let’s go with “questionable judgement” – to send Liberal Glenn Thibeault to Queen’s Park after all of the nonsense – shenanigans – anti-democratic backroom dealing – pending criminal charges? – after all of that was exposed to the public eye over the past 4 weeks of the Sudbury by-election.

I’m not going to re-cap the ins and outs of the scandals which continued to erupt here in Sudbury even as the polls were closing last night. Suffice it for me to say that the Liberal Party is going to have a lot of explaining to do over the next little while to justify some of their actions – for some Liberals, possibly that explaining will occur in front of a judge. I don’t care how much of a partisan Liberal you are (and certainly, there are likely fewer of those in Sudbury today, even after last night’s victory (and not just because all of those imported election helpers are being bussed back to Toronto and Ottawa today), you’ve got to admit that after what went on here, the election was the NDP’s to lose.

By-Election Was NDP's to Lose

Let me be clear here: the NDP wanted to win this by-election. They threw everything that they had into it. They brought in MPP’s, MP’s – NDP leader Andrea Horwath practically lived in Sudbury these past 4 weeks. They brought in federal party leader Tom Mulcair to offer his pointed observations of defector Glenn Thibeault (the famous “he’s beneath contempt” remarks). The even trotted out an endorsement from former leader and now near-NDP deity Ed Broadbent. And by putting everything that the NDP had into this election – from both the provincial and federal levels – the NDP are going to have to wear this loss as millstone around its collective neck.

By all rights, the Liberals, even with a great candidate like Thibeault, should not have ever been in contention here. Throughout the campaign, Thibeault found himself on the defensive – to say the least. Actually, the anger and ire that was palpable on the ground here in Sudbury directed at Thibeault and the Liberal Party was so pungent you could almost taste it in the frozen air as you walked down the street.

Yet, for all of that, the NDP, which took the Sudbury riding in the 2014 general election, didn’t get the votes. What happened?

Factors at Play Against NDP Success?

There are likely a number of factors which I won’t explore in any great detail here, besides to list them: the nomination of a relatively unknown candidate who did not live in the riding or the City; an early election call which caught the Party flat-footed (they didn’t nominate their candidate until 5 days into writ period); a weak performance of their candidate on the issues and NDP policy; the negative tone coming from the NDP campaign and its allies (United Steelworkers, OPSEU); and, the reliance on the electorate’s anger over Thibeault’s floor crossing as a motivating factor.

Some other factors might have worked against the NDP. The presence of a strong independent candidate, former Liberal turned whistle-blower Andrew Olivier, may have initially trumped some of the NDP’s momentum at the outset of the election, but frankly Olivier peaked early, and polls in the final week of the election showed that his vote had collapsed (indeed, the polls showed that it was Shawbonquit who had the momentum going into last night – the final poll before e-day actually had her three percentage points ahead of Thibeault). So it’s not clear to me that the Independent’s presence was damaging to the NDP – if anything, Olivier’s revelations seemed only to reinforce the NDP’s campaign narrative.

A strong Liberal ground game which pulled their vote may have been a contributing factor – to a degree. The fact is, the NDP also had a very strong ground game in play here, so I’m not sure the Liberal effort was determinative.

Voter turnout might also have played a role. In 2014, 52.5% of eligible voters in Sudbury cast ballots in the general election. NDP candidate Joe Cimino (whose resignation this past November triggered yesterday’s by-election), received 42.24% of the vote to the (then) Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier, who got 39.34%.

Turnout last night, however, was lower (only 25,747 voters cast ballots in the by-election, vs. the 22,725 who voted in the 2014 general election – by a quick calculation, based on similar numbers for eligible voters over the past 7 months, that means voter turnout here was down to around 40% - not bad for a by-election, but still a significant reduction from 2014). A lower voter turn out favours the parties with a strong ground game – but, again, it’s debatable that the Liberals performed better than their NDP counterparts in that department.

So after all of this analysis, we appear to be at a stalemate. Some factors might have had a small impact on the NDP’s loss – but was it enough to overcome the tone, mood, atmosphere and outright public hostility which Sudburians were expressing about the Liberals (mainly) and Thibeault (to a lesser, but still palpable extent)?

The NDP's Problem is the NDP

I’d argue that the primary deciding factor in the NDP’s loss (and I will continue to phrase it that way, rather than identify what happened last night as a Liberal win – for all of the reasons I’ve stated above, this election really was the NDP’s to lose) goes right back to the NDP itself as a Party – here in Ontario at the provincial level under leader Andrea Horwath, and federally under Tom Mulcair.

An interesting poll was released yesterday from EKOS which shows that support of the federal NDP has continued to plummet. EKOS has Tom Mulcair’s NDP down under 18% nationally. Back in the fall, EKOS was tracking the NDP in the mid-20s, where they’ve consistently polled since the spring of 2013 (before that they were higher).

Eric Grenier’s poll aggregator, threehundredeight.com, has the NDP slightly higher – but still at only 20% (and that doesn’t take into consideration yesterday’s EKOS poll). Say what you want about polls, but there’s really no denying the validity of the trends they reveal – and the trend here for the NDP has been one of failure – of being brought back down to where they used to poll in the 1990s.

Why is this? What’s going on? Why are people abandoning the NDP? Are the Liberals under Kathleen Wynne in Ontario and Justin Trudeau nationally that much better – that much more progressive – than they were under McGuinty or Ignatieff/Dionne? It’s certainly not clear to me that’s the case. So what is going on?

NDP has Lost its Way

What is clear to me, and apparently to a growing number of Canadians, is that the NDP has lost its way. In pursuit of electoral success, the NDP has shifted to the right of the political spectrum, but not enough or in such a way as to capture the imagination of centrists – but instead to portray itself as a Party willing to abandon it’s long-held principles in the pursuit of power. In short, the NDP doesn’t really stand for anything much any more.

And that was so evident during the Sudbury by-election. For the most part, the NDP’s strategy was to vilify Liberal candidate Glenn Thibeault on a personal level – to try to shame him. By emphasising the personal attacks – and let me be clear here, attacking another candidate on a personal level can be a very effective political tool when used at the right time, and Sudbury was probably the right time – left the NDP with little opportunity to discuss issues or publicly take positions on matters of local and provincial importance.

Sure, NDP candidate Suzanne Shawbonquit came out in favour of bringing a PET scanner to Sudbury (as did every other candidate), and she had some words to say about striking CCAC nurses and a lot more to say about potential lay-offs of nursing jobs at our local hospital (layoffs that haven’t happened yet, but the NDP enjoys dealing in rumours). Sure, she said some words – but she failed to articulate anything resembling a plan for finding a way forward. Saying that “we’ll stand up for jobs” isn’t really offering much in the way of substance to voters.

Was this Shawbonquit’s fault? No – it wasn’t. Although she was probably the worst candidate the NDP has offered up to Sudbury voters in decades, the fact is that her own Party had only thin gruel to give her in terms of ideas, initiatives, and substance on local issues. And that’s really the part of the growing trend which has shown that even the NDP doesn’t really understand what it stands for any more.

And so the NDP is in eclipse. And ultimately, that’s not good for Canada, because the NDP’s voice should be a strong one on many of the issues of importance to Canadians today – issues that the Liberals and Conservatives don’t want to touch, like climate change. But instead of a strong voice for Canada, the NDP is withering on the vine. I sincerely hope that both the provincial and federal parties engage in a lot of soul-searching over what happened here in Sudbury, because the disaster that befell the NDP here could be indicative of what awaits it later next year.

A Way Forward for the NDP

It looks to me like the NDP has two serious problems that it has to find a way to overcome. The first is leadership. Both Mulcair and Horwath have taken the NDP uncomfortably to the right of the political spectrum, and by doing so they’ve abandoned the core values of the party in pursuit of “populist” politics. We saw that play out in great detail here in Sudbury. New leaders are needed which will engage party membership so that a new and comprehensive plan for a way forward can be created. This new plan must be based on substance, good public policy and a return to supporting core values.

The second problem may be more difficult to overcome. In short, the NDP has to convince its allies in the Labour movement to get on board with taking real action on the climate crisis – or it needs to abandon Labour to the do-nothing Liberals. I realize that sounds very strange to many ears, but the fact of the matter is that a labour movement which refuses to take the climate crisis seriously, a movement which champions jobs in the fossil fuel sector over stranding assets, is a liability for the NDP going forward. Labour is a liability because by ignoring climate justice, it is working at odds against social justice.

The NDP's Dumb Economic Policies

Here in Sudbury, Suzanne Shawbonquit was forced to parrot the provincial party line that electricity rates (which the NDP in this province still want to refer to as “hydro” – even though less than a quarter of Ontario’s energy mix comes from water power. We probably should be calling our electricity bills “nuke bills”) are too high for people on fixed incomes – for seniors and for those living in poverty. The NDP’s solution, of course, is to lower the rates. They apparently also want to introduce a cap on gasoline prices in Ontario now too, for similar reasons.

Of course, if you artificially lower or cap prices, someone has to end up paying the difference. That would be the taxpayer – or, as increasingly preferred by neo-liberal governments – our children, born and unborn, with cost differentials made up through debt). It’s pretty easy to follow the route of the NDP’s plan to its conclusion: subsidizing fossil fuel use leads to higher taxes or debt – both of which will end up impacting those living on fixed incomes considerably. Along with the rest of us. In short, if you set out to develop the dumbest economic strategy that you could, you would arrive at the NDP’s plan.

And that’s to say nothing of the climate crisis. When you artificially lower the price of a good, chances are people are going to consume more of it. So much for conservation efforts. And since the rich are more able to consume, they’re going to be the big winners of this scheme – not seniors on fixed incomes, or those living in poverty. In fact, those living in poverty get hit twice here, even though their initial bills may be somewhat lower. They get hit through an unstable economy where higher taxes or debt is used to finance subsidies. And they get hit again by climate change.

Shifting Economic Paradigms

The labour movement, however, endorses consumption, because consumption creates jobs. That’s true – right up to the point where it isn’t true any more because the economy has collapsed because you’ve pursued a foolish, unsustainable fiscal policy. And that’s the heart of the problem – as long as labour is married to an economic paradigm dependent on growth (and as long as the NDP follows Labour’s lead), the very people whom the NDP claims to champion are actually put in increasing jeopardy.

To find success going forward, the NDP has to abandon a growth-centred economic development paradigm and replace it with one focused on sustainability. But that’s clearly not going to happen until Labour either gets its own act together – or until the NDP tells Labour to bug off.

I can’t see either of these things happening – yet they must happen. If they don’t happen, the NDP will continue to slip into irrelevancy. Ontario and Canada don’t need two Liberal parties. We need a party which understands and works toward implementing a sustainable economic paradigm.

I guess that’s why I’m with the Green Party, after all.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and of Canada)

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Observations on the Sudbury Provincial By-Election - From January 26, 2015

It's been a while since I've written. Things have been keeping me a little busy around here lately, and one of the things I've had to sacrifice has been writing for this blog. Sleep has been another. But I've managed to find a few minutes this evening to jot down some of my observations pertaining to the provincial by-election in the Sudbury riding.

We've been on a roller coaster ride pretty much since NDP MPP Joe Cimino resigned in late November, 2014 (see: "Cimino quits as Sudbury MPP, citing personal reasons", the Sudbury Star, November 20, 2014). As with most roller coasters, the tension kept building and building until we were all thrown for a massive loop back in mid-December – first with accusations from former Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier that Liberal backroom players and the Premier herself offered him a job to step back and allow a star candidate to be appointed (see: "Olivier says Liberals pressured him not to run", the Sudbury Star, December 15, 2014) We were rocked again a day later by news that Glenn Thiebeault, Sudbury's NDP MP would be resigning his seat federally, crossing the floor, and running for the provincial Liberals (see: "Glenn Thibeault to run for Liberals in Sudbury", the Northern Life, December 16, 2014).

What a couple of days those were. Since then, the ride has continued. In my opinion, the ride has completely overtaken the by-election – so much so that we've now found ourselves in an election about the ride itself. And there doesn't appear to be any way of slamming on the breaks to get off.

Here's a recap of some of the players involved in the by-election, for some of my readers who may not be familiar with Sudbury politics. Heck, many here in Sudbury have had to develop their own programmes, just to keep track of all of the changes.

Get Your Programmes Here!

Paula Peroni, who ran for the PC's in the spring general election, is back for the PC's again this time.

Glenn Thibeault, the former federal NDP MP, was appointed as Liberal nominee by Premier Kathleen Wynne. This triggered the resignation en masse of the Sudbury provincial Liberal Constituency Association (see: "Sudbury Liberals to elect a new executive", the Sudbury Star, January 17, 2015). Last year, the Toronto Liberals dithered and delayed holding a nomination contest in Sudbury as they searched for a star candidate (see: "Nomination delay 'mind-boggling': Bartolucci", the Sudbury Star, April 11, 2014). Rumour had it that Greater Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk was being considered for the job, but eventually no star candidate was found, and first-time nominee Andrew Olivier received the nod from local Liberals.

This time, Andrew Olivier is back, running as Independent after being pushed aside by the provincial Liberals. After refusing to cooperate with a police investigation triggered by his accusations that he was offered a job by the Premier and back room operatives (see: "Wouldn't surrender recordings to OPP: Olivier", the Sudbury Star, January 15, 2015), Olivier released secret recordings he had made of two of three conversations that he had with prominent Liberals (see,"Olivier releases taped conversations: Listen Here", the Northern Life, January 15, 2015). Olivier, a paraplegic, apparently records many of his conversations as he's unable to take notes. New investigations have now been launched by the OPP and Elections Ontario, based on these recordings. It's unclear whether there is a third recording, but I predict we'll be hearing more about that in due course, at a time of Olivier's choosing in order to maximize its impact on the electorate.

The Green Party nominated Laurentian University Progressor Dr. David Robinson at a contested meeting (see: "David Robinson elected Green Party candidate", the Northern Life, January 7, 2015). He beat out former candidate and Laurentian University student Casey Lalonde. Robinson, who had previously signalled his intentions to run federally for the Green Party, appeared on the scene as a surprise candidate. He's well-known in the Sudbury community through his column in the Northern Ontario Business Magazine, as well as through the numerous media appearances he's made over the years.

In contrast, the NDP nominated a relative unknown in Suzanne Shawbonquit. Previous to the nomination contest (held 5 days after the writ was dropped), 2011 NDP candidate Paul Loewenberg had indicated his intent to seek the nomination – and then pulled out, endorsed Shawbonquit, and said he was going to focus on the federal nomination (see: "Loewenberg backing Shawbonquit in NDP race", the Sudbury Star, January 5, 2015). That left Shawbonquit to face the NDP's 2007 candidate Dave Battaino, and former Mayoral candidate John Caruso (former Ward 3 candidate Jesse Gaudet pulled out of the race at the nomination meeting and endorsed Shawbonquit). Shawbonquit won on the first ballot (see: "Suzanne Shawbonquit to run for NDP in Sudbury by-election", the Northern Life, January 11, 2015).

There are also several other candidates running, including former Mayoral candidate Jean-Raymond Audet, representing the People's Political Party, and independents James Waddell and John Turmel, an oustider to our community who is also the Guiness Book of World Records holder for most election runs. Finally, Sudbury's own perrennial no-hope candidate David Popescu has also entered the race.

Some other players who have emerged include all of the Party Leaders (and the PC's interim leader as well), each of which have visited this riding at least once since the by-election was called. Liberal campaign chair Pat Sorbara and prominent local Liberal Gerry Lougheed have also played instrumental roles in the campaign and are currently being investigated by the OPP and Elections Ontario. And former Greater Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk had her name come up in a not-so flattering way in the conversation Olivier taped with Lougheed (see, "Olivier tape implies Matichuk sought Liberal nomination", the Northern Life, January 15, 2015). Last week, Matichuk announced that she'd be seeking the federal Liberal nomination in Sudbury (see: "Former Mayor hopes to seek federal Liberal nod", the Sudbury Star, January 23, 2015).

Election Observations So Far

With a little over a week to go in the campaign, it seems clear to me that the biggest winners of the by-election are likely to be the backroom deal-makers and spin doctors in the Liberal and New Democratic parties. This by-election has been completely about non-issues – Thibeault's floor crossing and the way that it made Sudburians feel; whether jobs were offered to Olivier or not (the tapes he released appear to confirm that the Liberals didn't offer him a specific job, and urged him only to pursue jobs or appointments after he publicly endorsed Glenn Thibeault). Local issues? In a by-election? Forget about it. There aren't any.

Well, that's not entirely true. Green David Robinson has been focusing on a plan to build Sudbury's mining supply cluster, turning Sudbury into the world capital of sustainable mining. He's had a number of releases laying down the planks of his plan (see: "Green candidate advocating for jobs", "David Robinson Wants to Create Jobs by Making Sudbury a Centre for Mining Excellence", "Geothermal Energy Can Fuel Dr. David Robinson's Plan to Make Sudbury a Global Centre for Mining Excellence", "Community-Based Renewable Energy Key Part of Dr. David Robinson's Jobs Plan for Sudbury", "Robinson has a Plan to Seize Opportunities, Bolster Sudbury's Mining Supply Sector", "Green Dr. David Robinson has a Comprehensive Plan for Developing the Ring of Firee", and "David Robinson Wants to Make Downtown Sudbury the Staging Area for Developing the Ring of Fire").

Although a lot of people who are interested in economic development and mining have taken note that the Green Party has been the industry's biggest champion in the by-election, Robinson's traction on this issue has been, shall we say, not as hoped for.

PC Paula Peroni has also been humming along with issues important to her Party's base, although I personally think that she's failed to connect these issues to Sudbury, specifically. Nevertheless, Peroni has been talking about highway maintenance contracts, her opposition to a carbon tax, and cutting red tape. In all seriousness, these vague generalities are better than anything that the Liberals, NDP or the major Indepenent have been talking about.

Glenn Thibeault has been meeting with a lot of cabinet Ministers talking about whatever it is that Liberals talk about at these sorts of meetings. I don't know – they've largely been closed door affairs. When everyone emerges, there seems to be little discussion about what went on inside, and a lot of talk about crossing the floor, the secret tapes, etc. I've caught Thibeault a few times mouthing the Liberals standard talking points about whatever, but that hardly qualifies as a discussion of the issues. Sure, he supports a PET scanner for Health Sciences North (as does every other candidate), but his own Party won't even commit to making sure Sudbury has this service.

Andrew Olivier has actually gone out of his way to avoid talking about any issues. I've seen him in action now at two all-candidates forums. His standard response to questions about issues and policy seems to be “We'll have to look into it and let Sudburians decide”. While being the easy way out on any issue, it also allows Olivier to use a lot of words to say nothing at all – something he is very good at. When he ran for the Liberals in 2014, he wasn't exactly excelling in policy-related discussions, but at least he had the talking points to refer to. This time out, Olivier's strategy has been to make the election largely about him – and credit where it's due, that's exactly what the election has been about. In my opinion, Olivier represents political cynicism at its best, and Sudbury will do itself a great disservice if he is elected MPP.

The Story of the Election for Me: Suzanne Shawbonquit

And then there's Suzanne Shawbonquit. Before the election, I had heard nothing but good things about Shawbonquit. Since the first all-candidates forum she participated in, I've heard nothing but bad things. In short, she has got to be the very worst candidate that has ever stood for the NDP in the Sudbury riding – a stronghold for that party. Not only is she a ver poor speaker, she doesn't seem to understand the issues. She clearly isn't well-versed in her own Party's policy book, and she's made commitments in this by-election which go against what I've long understood to be the NDP's policy.

Specifically, Shawbonquit has endorsed raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour – something that NDP Leader Andrea Horwath refused to commit to in the 2014 general election (see: "Horwath vows to raise minimum wage to $12", the Toronto Sun, May 15, 2014). And, more importantly for me, Shawbonquit has been very clear that she is against putting a price on carbon pollution. I'd like to explore this topic in greater detail in a few moments, but let me first finish regarding my observations about Shawbonquit as a candidate.

First off, the NDP has rarely let her speak. Even press releases seem to highligh Andrea Horwath over Shawbonquit. Timmins-James Bay NDP MPP Gilles Bisson has also been doing a lot of legwork on behalf of the NDP, appearing in our local media almost as much as Horwath (and more than Shawbonquit) with his dogged pursuit of Elections Ontario's investigation of the Olivier tapes (see: "Independence a must if Elections Act broken, Bisson says", the Northern Life, January 26, 2015). To me, it looks like the NDP know that they've got a major problem with their candidate, and they're managing her as best they can.

But ordinary NDP members have already been questioning the wisdom of the Sudbury NDP in nominating this candidate, particularly since Loewenberg or David Battaino would have been much more formidable. At least they would have been familiar with the NDP's policy book. But there's still good news for the NDP – word about Shawbonquit's weakness as a candidate really hasn't been filtering out through the local mainstream media, who have so far been willing to give her a pass on the issues. And of course, the NDP is going to have a strong ground game in the Sudbury riding – whether she's a terrible candidate or not (and she is), she's still got a very good chance of winning.

Carbon Pricing

But back to carbon pollution for a moment. During the by-election, the Liberals started signalling that they are getting ready to put a price on carbon pollution (see: "Carbon pricing coming to Ontario, strategy to be unveiled this year", the Globe & Mail, January 13, 2015). As a result, it's been one of the few issues which have gained even a tiny bit of traction in this by-election, thanks almost entirely to David Robinson and Paula Peroni. Robinson, an economist and a Green, is obviously in favour of a carbon fee and dividend approach to carbon pricing (see: "What Economists Believe About the Economic Tools We Can Use to Respond to Climate Change", Economics for Northern Ontario, November 24, 2015, and "Carbon Dividend or Economically Efficient Allocation of Carbon Tax Revenues?", Economics for Northern Ontario, December 11, 2014). Peroni, who has some concerns about climate change, has started a petition to prevent carbon pricing altogether (see: "Tories say 'No way' to carbon tax, launch petition", the Northern Life, January 21, 2015).

Liberal Thibeault, of course, is towing the Party's line that they're going to study the issue further. What's interesting, though, is that in piece by Sudbury blogger Mick Lowe about why Thibeault left the NDP, Thibeault cited Thomas Mulcair's intransigence to look at any form of carbon pricing except for Cap & Trade (see: "A failure to evolve: In Defense of Glenn Thibeault", Mick Lowe, December 22, 2014). It certainly seems that Thibeault isn't a fan of Cap & Trade – which makes it all the more interesting that he's moved over to the provincial Liberals who appear now to be getting ready to join Quebec and California in a Cap & Trade system. While that might not be the final outcome, to this observer it appears quite likely that it's going to happen this way.

Independent Andrew Olivier thinks that a tax on carbon will lead to more pollution – although he has admitted publicly that he really doesn't have a clue about the issue.

Is the NDP Eliminating its Cap & Trade Position on Carbon Pricing?

And then there's the curious case of Suzanne Shawbonquit. In an all-candidates forum hosted by the Sudbury chapter of CARP and Friendly to Seniors, Shawbonquit was asked about putting a price on pollution. In response to a question on climate change and carbon pricing, she said climate change is an issue, but that she was opposed to a carbon tax. Full stop. I found this a little surprising at the time, as I expected her to mention the NDP's policy on Cap & Trade for big emitters. But there wasn't any mention of that. Maybe it was just a rookie oversight.

The following night at the CBC radio debate, Shawbonquit was again asked about the importance of the climate crisis and whether she supported putting a price on carbon pollution. That night, she said climate change was “important”, but that she opposed a carbon tax. She expanded on yesterday's answer, indicating that a carbon tax would make things unaffordable for people – especially people who are less well off. Again, no mention of Cap & Trade. Bizarrely, later in the debate she mentioned having spoken with a 12 year old who had a dream of starting a renewable energy business. Of course, it wasn't apparent to her that her position on pricing carbon pollution would frustrate that child's dream considerably, but I digress.

All of this has really got me thinking. Maybe this isn't a rookie mistake. Maybe Shawbonquit's opposition to carbon pricing signals a larger shift in the NDP that they're going to oppose putting a price on carbon pollution – just as the B.C. NDP did a few years ago. Perhaps now that the Liberals are thinking about actually acting towards making Cap & Trade a reality, the NDP – a party which relishes its unbridled opposition to anything the government does - has grown uncomfortable with its support of a Liberal policy, and they're backing off.

Look, it's just not good enough for the NDP to continue to insist that it cares about the environment and climate change, and then to go on to oppose any initiative which might actually reduce emissions. Remember, the NDP has been in power in Nova Scotia, BC and Manitoba – and the've failed to put a price on carbon pollution in every circumstance. If they're now shifting their position in Ontario, this is really a clear signal that they can't be taken seriously on this issue. In my opinion, the NDP's credibility on climate change took a hit a long time ago, when federal Leader Tom Mulcair embraced expanding the tar sands through his support of the Energy East bitumen pipeline and by reversing the B.C. NDP's provincial opposition to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project (see: "Greenwashing on Climate Change Starting to Take a Toll on the NDP", Sudbury Steve May, November 4, 2014). That and the NDP's recent support for investor state provisions in the Canada-South Korea Free Trade deal (see: "NDP back Canada-Korea free trade pact" the Huffington Post, September 24, 2014) has sent a strong signal to those paying attention that the NDP simply can't be trusted to take a proactive approach on the environment and climate change.

In that respect, Green David Robinson's press release has a certain resonance (see: "Shawbonquit's Position on Carbon Pricing 'Shameful' says Robinson", the Green Party of Ontario, January 26, 2015). Robinson calls the NDP the “anti-environment party”. And really, he ought to know. Robinson – like a growing number of Canadians concerned about climate change – used to be an NDP supporter. In Robinson's case, he was with the NDP for around 30 years, but had to leave when, like Thibeault, the NDP refused to support anything but a Cap & Trade plan for carbon pricing. As an economist, and as someone who has written extensively on the subject of carbon pricing, Robinson knows that a Cap & Trade approach likely isn't going to work.

Back to Shawbonquit and my suspicion that what we're seeing in Sudbury may be a part of a shift in Andrew Horwarth's “new populist” NDP away from evidenced-based policy on climate change and the environment. We should have a fuller picture on the evening of January 27th, as all candidates have been invited by the Citizens Climate Lobby for a discussion around the topics of climate change and carbon pricing. This session, being livestreamed over the internet, will assuredly allow Shawbonquit to set the record straight on exactly where Andrea Horwarth and the provincial NDP stand on climate change and carbon pricing. I for one certainly look forward to hearing Shawbonquit say something – anything – well, anything positive, anyway – about putting a price on carbon. The truth of the matter is that while I'm a partisan, the climate crisis is simply too important of a matter to play partisan politics with. If we've lost a climate allay in the NDP, that would be a major blow for the climate justice movement.

The Sideshow vs. The Issues

So, about those polls (to which I'm not going to provide links). Suffice it to say that I don't put a lot of stock in the polls, but I think it may be fair to mention what the polls are revealing in broad terms. Really, these trends don't surprise me in the least. Taken together, it looks like the polls are suggesting that the by-election is becoming a show down between the Liberals and the NDP, with Independent Olivier positioned to play spoiler. Further, if the polls are to be believed, the PC's support is in the process of collapsing, and the Green support never really registered in the first place. Of course, I find this interesting, largely because it's been the PC's and the Greens who have almost exclusively been talking about the issues, leaving the “sideshow” to the other 3 players – Thibeault, Shawbonquit and Olivier.

The media is noticing. There have been a few pieces lately which have lamented the lack of local issues being discussed in this campaign (see especially "The heart makes a poor voting booth", Mark Gentili, the Northern Life, January 26, 2015). But the objections have been pretty light-weight so far – certainly we're far more likely to keep hearing about the sideshow over the next 10 days than we are about the issues. As many know, elections don't appear to be a good time to have a conversation about the issues.

So, if Sudburians go out and elect a Liberal or a New Democrat or, in a massive fit of short-sighted protest, an Independent who has frankly brought so very little to the table – well, as I said earlier, it will be a vindication of the backroom dealers and spin-doctors who run campaigns out of Toronto (in Olivier's defence, there is some indication that his campaign is at least being run out of Sudbury). Those who are concerned about the issues – things like how the provincial government can work with the City to make a better effort at creating jobs – or whether the City can really afford the Maley Drive extension – or how the Ring of Fire can be developed in a way which sees some benefit go to Sudbury (these are just three examples) – it looks to me like we're likely going to be the biggest losers on election day.

In short, those concerned about the health of our democratic system of government are about to find that their interests are being trumped by partisan games. It's no surprise to me, given that I've long written about how the Liberals and especially the NDP have sacrificed their values, their policies and just about everything to the raw pursuit of power. We're seeing that play out now on a large canvas here in the Sudbury by-election. Woe to us.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Our Economic, Political Systems are Threatened by Global Warming

As the pages on our calendars are turned from one year to the next, we are reminded that the future can’t be held back. It’s going to come on its own terms, and by necessity we must adapt. What the year 2014 taught us, based on knowledge which has been accumulating now for decades, is that we are headed towards a planetary crisis. We are likely in the early stages of that crisis now.

The crisis centres on the fact that humanity is altering the chemical composition of our planet's atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels which release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, causing the planet to warm and the climate to change.

2014 is now officially the hottest year on record. 10 of the past hottest years have occurred since 1998. Since the late 1800s, the world has warmed between 0.6 and 0.9 degrees Celsius, and the rate of warming has more than doubled since 1950. If we continue to burn fossil fuels at the rate we are today, we can expect a rise in temperature between 2.5 and 5 degrees Celsius by the year 2100 .

These changes in average temperature might not seem large, but in terms of their impact on the climate, they are astounding. When the world was just several degrees cooler, much of North America was covered by glaciers.

Throughout most of the period of human civilization, the world’s climate has remained fairly stable. Only since the onset of the industrial revolution has this started to change – slowly at first, and much faster recently. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere accumulate over time. Even if all fossil fuel burning stopped tomorrow, the warming will still continue for at least another century.

The crisis we are facing isn’t just a chemical crisis. Global warming threatens to upset the systems on which our civilization is based. Our food supply, and the fresh water we need to grow crops, is threatened by changes to the planet's climate. Agricultural crises often lead to economic and political upheaval brought about by famine and war.

If we are to avoid the very worst of these catastrophes – the environmental, economic and political – it's very clear what we need to do. We must stop burning fossil fuels and hold the line of warming at no more than 2 degrees Celsius. And in Copenhagen in 2009, just about every nation on the planet agreed to do just that.

But so far, agreement has led to only limited action. Fossil resources continue to be exploited, even though we know that most of our reserves of coal, oil and natural gas can't be burned. Yet, here in Canada, our national and provincial governments are committed to new fossil fuel infrastructure projects, like pipelines and ports, to facilitate more fossil fuel extraction and burning.

A new study published in the science journal Nature this week exposed a stark truth for Canada. To keep warming at 2 degrees Celsius, no more than 15% of the Alberta tar sands known reserves can be extracted and burned. The study makes it also makes it clear that there is absolutely no point in further exploration for new fossil fuel sources.

The future is coming on its own terms, and one way or another, we'll have to adapt. Rapidly decarbonizing our economy through a shift to renewable energy is the most sensible course. Armed with this knowledge, we must find ourselves political leaders who have the courage to act for our future benefit, rather than those who choose to act against our interests – and the planet's.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Party of Canada)

Originally published as in the Sudbury Star, Saturday, January 10, 2015 (print only).