From my Facebook Wall. Part III. Enjoy.
Angry About Subsidizing Energy Producers With Our Tax Money? I Say Level The Playing Field
Which sector of the energy industry is the most heavily subsidized in Canada, receiving over $2.85 billion in government subsidies (read: our tax dollars) in 2008 alone? If you think all of that money went into wind energy or maybe solar, think again. It went into the pockets of major, mostly international, oil, coal and gas industries. I guess they need the extra money, given their historically low profit margins. Oh? You think they can likely do ok on their own, without our tax dollars to help them? Maybe you're right. I wonder what we could do with an almost extra $3 Billion dollars we'd save if we stop subsidizing rich corporations. Maybe we could invest that in the health care system, or perhaps in environmental initiaives. Or maybe just give it back to us in the form of tax cuts, so that we can use it to promote economic activity.
The Conservative government will not stop giving our money away to rich, multi-national corporations which contribute massively to greenhouse gas emissions. They argue that to do so would mean the price of energy will have to rise. I say so be it. Give me back my money so that I can choose how to spend it. If I want to spend it on more expensive gasoline for my car (because the corporate subsidy has disappeared), then that's my choice. If instead I choose to buy a bus pass, or maybe just walk more, than that's my choice. Right now, my hard earned tax dollars are going to major international polluters, and I don't like that. You may not like it either. But your government does not care. They don't want you to choose what to do with your money, because you might choose to take the bus or walk, like I would do. Without choice, their buddies in the fossil fuel industry are guaranteed to receive all of that money, so it just makes more sense to continue the "subsidy".
Hound the Deniers! Throw Them to the Dogs!
An excellent letter to the editor appearing in today's Sudbury Star from Len Wiseman, who frequently takes the time to correct some of the more wild asssertions regarding climate change put forth by Sun Media authors such as Peter Worthington and Lorrie Goldstein. Wiseman says that we have an obligation to "hound" climate change deniers, and that it's "morally, logically and scientifically correct" to do so. I agree. We can't continue to let the know-nothings dominate the debate. In fact, there shouldn't even be a debate at all at this time. The science is in. We must confront those who willingly attempt to deny reality for their own small-minded, profit-driven, politically and ideologically motivated reasons. We continue to refer to these people as "climate change deniers", which still gives them a level of acceptance which, frankly, isn't warranted. Perhaps a better term would be "liars".
Follow the Bouncing Crystal Ball - How to Read the Polls
The Toronto Star's Royson James discusses some of the finer nuances of political polling during elections. The Star apparently suffered a lot of criticism for their reporting regarding just how close the Mayoral race between Ford and Smitherman was, versus the actual outcome. Some have suggested that the Star had an interest in continuing to promote their man, Smitherman, telling the story that the election was too close to call. The results were otherwise: Ford won by a decent margin. James suggests that the way newspapers report polls needs to be considered in any analysis, and needs to be better understood by the newspapers themselves. Here in Sudbury, where significantly less polling was conducted, we experienced a similar result: polls all along showed Rodriguez out in front, with Matichuk behind, and undecided voters starting to make their minds up. The gap was closing between Rodriguez and Matichuk, but not all that quickly, as undecideds ended up going to both camps (although with a slight preference for Matichuk). When all of the votes were cast, Matichuk won the day by a decent margin. What happened? Well, as in Toronto, the polls showed a trend, but it wasn't the trend picked up on by the media: as the race quickly became a two-horse race, third place Callaghan's support collapsed; on the day of the election, his support was down considerably. It went to Matichuk, who had never led in any of the polls. The moral of the story: don't look at any one poll in isolation. Look at the numbers behind the poll, as James suggests, and look at the polls' quality (example: internet-based polls tend not to reach older voters, who tend to be more right-wing). And finally, look at the trends, and make your predictions based on those trends. At the end of the day, even the most scientific of polls still involves some crystal ball gazing.
Children's Toys, Marketing, and Healthy Diets
Looks like decision makers in San Francisco are starting to take the plastic out of food. Happy meals, and their equivalents at other fast food chain restaurants, have long attempted to entice children to "influence" their parents to dine at a particular location, in part based on the "free" toy they'd receive with their meal. Usually the toy ties in with the latest mega-movie release. It's all an intricate marketing campaign, aimed at children, to separate money from their parents. It's certainly not about healthy food or healthy families, and frankly I'm surprised that we've continued to prioritize the importance of marketing over health. This article appearing in the Globe & Mail says that San Francisco is the first major city to ban toys in children's meals; it's not going to be the last. But note the wry headline, and the reference to taking "happy" out of a "Happy meal"…is it really just a pun, or do the corporate managers at the G&M want us all to think that a pro-health move like San Fran's is something to be considered a little dangerous? What kind of society might we turn into if we start paying less attention to advertising and marketers, and start making financial decisions based on real, quantitative information?
Public Utilities Donate to Liberal Party - Your Tax Dollars At Work (not)
Christina Blizzard of Sun Media writes about a very interesting story (my opinion) which I have been following, wondering if it would have "legs". I initially thought that Provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath's revelation that public energy utility companies, such as Greater Sudbury Utilities, have been contributing t...o the provincial Liberal Party, would resonate around the province. It was the lead story on the 6 o'clock CBC radio news on Monday night. However, it seemed to have largely disappeared yesterday, although there were a few stories in the media. Significantly, those stories played up the Liberal Party's revelations that the NDP had also benefitted from accepting donations from energy utilities, such as Union Gas. Interestingly, the provincial Liberals had only identified private corporations as NDP campaign contributors, while Horwath's original revelation had to do with publicly-funded energy utilities (those who derive revenue directly from tax-payers, and are quasi-municipal). Blizzard, in this article, rightly points out that these really aren't the same animals as private companies. Yesterday, the Liberals attempt to confuse and distort the negative messaging wasn't widely reported by the media as an attempt to confuse matters. Good for Blizzard to point this out.
Horwath's revelation struck a chord with me, and I think that Ontarians should be very concerned that our publicly-funded, quasi-municipal energy utilties are contributing to the campaigns of a single political party. This isn't right, despite the fact that it's legal. I think this points to the need for significant reform to our electoral processes. Yesterday, Energy Minister Brad Duguid had indicated that Ontario has some of the strictest and most transparent election finance rules anywhere in Canada. I have to absolutely disagree, and I point to the federal election system, which bans both corporate and union donations as an example. If Ontario was really serious about transparency, as a first step, it must get rid of the ability of corporations (private and public) to make donations to political parties. Corporations are not individuals. They can not vote. They should not be a part of our electoral processes. Horwath should be leading the way on calling for the elimination of corporate contributions of any sort, even though her Party also benefits from corporate and union donations. Can Ontarians count on her to do so? Despite her recent revelation, I don't believe we can. I guess we're just going to have see how serious the NDP is about campaign financing and the democratic process.
Attacking Attack Ads
Susan Delacourt writes on the Toronto Star webpage about attack ads. She questions why it is that political parties seem to be exempt from the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, while those advertising other products and services on public airwaves must comply. It's a damn good question, and a timely one as well.... Even former Reform Party Leader Preston Manning wrote recently about the incredibly shabby and sad state of what passes for public discourse in Canada. With a federal election around the corner, we are all expecting a nastier campaign from the NDP, Conservatives and Liberals. Rather than discuss what they might do if given power by Canadians, it's so much easier to score cheap political points by lambasting the opposition. Former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell once remarked that elections are no time to talk about policy, and she was scoffed at, despite being right. Elections offer an incredible opportunity for political parties to get their message out to voters, yet instead of talking about themselves, it seems that they are growing increasingly content to point fingers, and shout their opponents down. The character John Dough in the movie Se7en remarked that the only way to get anyone's attention nowadays was to use a sledgehammer; our political parties seem to have taken that message to heart. Don't expect attack ads from Greens, however. Frankly, we just don't have it in us. And if we're going to succeed it all, it's going to be beause of our vision and our desire to do politics differently. Most Greens don't even know how to be partisan, much less how to attack the other Parties. We should probably keep it that way.
Expect Failure at Climate Conference
My published letter to the Editor of the Sudbury Star, which I had blogged about last week. Only minor edits, although the headline wasn't my suggestion. Seems to fit the story better, though. That Editor over at the Sudbury Star…he sure knows how to edit!
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