Wednesday, April 21, 2021

It's Increasingly Looking Like the Green Party of Ontario Needs to Start Talking About New Leadership

Here are the latest polling results from Abacus regarding voter intentions in Ontario. As with other polls from earlier this week, it's not a surprise to see PC support starting to slip - and I think it's fair to say that we'll continue to see slippage going into next week, given the absolute disastrous performance of Ford's government just since Friday at 4:00 PM.

From: Abacus Data - April 21, 2021


But there's another story developing here that I think needs to be examined by Green Party supporters - and that's the complete stagnation of the Green Party of Ontario. The GPO received a little less than 5% of the popular vote in 2018. Most polls are showing Greens somewhere between 5% and 10% - but you've got to keep in mind, Green Parties throughout Canada always over-perform in the polls and under-perform at the ballot box. So when you see 10%, take it with a grain of salt, as our supporters just don't show up at the ballot box.

Green Party hasn't been the only party to experience flat-lined support since the 2018 provincial election. There has been very little movement among any of the parties - up until now. This is the time that we should start to see the Green Party moving up in polling numbers, if it's message was resonating even a little bit with voters. But, so far, nothing.

If Greens can't figure out a way to capitalize on this moment, I don't think they can avoid the conversation for much longer - not if Greens want to elect enough MPP's in 2022 to be recognized as an Official Party at Queen's Park. If what they're doing and saying are good things - but they are still not resonating with the voting public - I think it's time that we conclude that new leadership is probably warranted.

I'm a big supporter of Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner. I think he's done a very good job putting the Green Party on the map and keeping it as relevant as can be throughout these difficult times, when the pandemic has really sidelined many non-government elected officials (Andrea Horwath has almost completely disappeared from the public eye). But it may be Mike has taken the Green Party as far as he can, and if the Party is going to have any hope of growing, it will need to be under new leadership.

I hope I'm wrong about this - I really do hope to see Green numbers start to rise in the polls over the next couple of weeks, coincident with the governing party's loss of popularity. But if we don't - it remains in the realm of possibility that the Green Party can put itself back on track with new leadership in place before the June 2022 election.

It's a conversation Greens need to start having.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Will Erin O'Toole Survive Impending Conservative Backlash to His Big Business-Friendly Carbon Scheme?

Re: "Conservatives' climate plan would replace Liberal carbon tax with lower levy of their own," CBC, April 15, 2021.

I don't agree with the characterization of this scheme as being a "carbon tax" - it seems to be a different form of Carbon Fee & Dividend to me (and the Supreme Court tells me and others that Carbon Fee & Dividend is not a tax, so....)


Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole (Facebook)

There is some small merit to this approach, once you look past the reduction in the carbon fee and the crony capitalism of working with big business and how this will punish local businesses (once again) in preference to multinationals like WalMart, etc. Arguably, requiring the dividend to be spent on low-carbon purchases only will create greater efficiency - so you get more carbon reduction bang for your buck.

But it's hard to overlook all of the rest.

Not to worry, though - his own Party is going to eat him alive over this. Caucus, candidates, Party members and supporters, along with Conservative media pundits will almost certainly characterize this as a "Carbon Tax" - and as a (yet another) betrayal of so-called "Conservative Values" by O'Toole.  This platform plank won't see the light of day come election time (which is why the trial balloon is up now).  It just won't survive the backlash.

My question is, can O'Toole survive as leader of his own Party?

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Elected Right-Wing Extremists Challenge Public Health Measures in Alberta

An interesting dynamic is at play in Alberta - one that I hope we don't see here in Ontario (and don't expect that we will). Despite the endless scandals and incredible mis-steps, until now Premier Jason Kenney has ruled over his United Conservative Party with an iron fist. But after finally implementing public health measures commensurate with the requirements of getting out in front of the COVID-19 pandemic, a quarter of his caucus (16 MLA's) are now in open rebellion against his government, claiming the measures are too strict and demanding they be reversed, perhaps on a regional basis.

Jason Kenney. Source: Calgary Herald

Here in Ontario, Premier Ford quickly (like within the hour quickly) threw out a member of his team (MPP Roman Baber) at the first sign of questioning Ford's public health decisions. Kenney isn't likely to take this step, as he is aware that his United Conservative Party is a coalition between traditional Conservatives (like himself) and Alberta's own brand of right-wing extremists in the form of former Wild Rose Party (a.k.a. "Lake of Fire") MLA's, who seem to treat the existence of science, evidence and fact with contempt and disdain.
Now, all of the 16 MLA's that signed the open letter against Kenney are backbenchers, at least one was a member of Kenney's government up until she was caught and publicly exposed and derided for taking a vacation outside the country this past Christmastime. So it's not as if there aren't some "mainstream" (for Alberta) people involved here. And now that the forces that be have decided to take action against the anti-masker's symbolic Grace United Church (which keeps holding services despite public health measures that ought to have seen it shut down a long time ago), this rebellion could grow.
I fully expect Kenney to start caving in to the demands of the Profit over People crowd in his own caucus - maybe by developing some sort of regional framework similar to the one we tried here in Ontario for awhile that we proved DOES NOT WORK. Woe be to Albertans caught up in this right-wing political in-fighting - many of whom are putting their lives on the line just going to work or sending their kids to school.
Say what you want about the Ontario government's handling of the pandemic (and there is *a lot* that can and should be said), but at least they're not beholden to the king of right-wing extremists within their own caucus that Alberta has to deal with. That people with such extreme and marginal views can find themselves in positions of power is disconcerting to say the least. But our first-past-the-post electoral system that promotes a kind of tribalism at the ballot box is clearly responsible. All the extremists have to do in many ridings is win a nomination contest - as their Party's endorsement almost assures that they'll be elected, no questions asked. And that's another reason all levels of government need to start taking a look at proportional representation - to keep the extremists out.
So, Sudbury, we might find ourselves in the midst of a pretty lousy time right now - but it could be a lot worse.

Monday, March 8, 2021

ONDP's "Green New Democratic Deal" - Cap and Trade - A Bad Idea Made Worse

"Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again." -From Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire"

There are a lot of good ideas in the Ontario NDP's recently released "Green New Democratic Deal".  With a few exceptions, the NDP has checked just about every box that a political party should be checking if they are interested in developing a credible climate change plan.  With my quick 20-minute review, I only noticed two glaring omissions: there are no calls to extend more protections to wetlands or to the habitat of species at risk.  Not sure why the ONDP left those things out, as they have in the past been champions for protecting wetlands (species at risk is a bit of a different matter).

The "Plan" sure is light on details.  

The centrepiece of the Plan is a new Cap and Trade scheme that will replace the federal backstop.  Yes, Cap and Trade is back again - and about as welcome to me as Richard Nixon putting in another appearance.

But at least it appears that the NDP will take some time to work out the details after it gets elected, leaving voters to wonder just what they're in store for when they head to the polls.  The "plan" indicates that there will be a good deal of consultation with stakeholders before it ever gets set up.  

And that's very disconcerting, considering that three quarters of the $40 billion that the NDP wants to spend will be coming directly from the proceeds of Cap and Trade. $30 billion in new revenue is projected to come from Cap and Trade scheme, and $10 billion from Green bonds. Is that realistic?

At the time of cancellation of the Liberal's Cap and Trade program in 2018, projections were that the province would be foregoing $3 billion in revenue over 4 years (see: "Premier Doug Ford’s cap-and-trade move will cost treasury $3B over four years," the Toronto Star, October 16, 2018). Now, the vagaries of any cap and trade program are such that it's hard to know, exactly, how much revenue a program is going to pull in until the cap is set and the auction begins. But let's assume the numbers reported in 2018 are correct: the former program would have generated $3 billion in revenue for Ontario.

But the NDP says their program will generate $30 billion over 4 years - 10 times as much. Which suggests that the cap put on emissions is going to be much tighter, leading to a much higher per-tonne cost for carbon pollution.

Of course, the NDP's plan doesn't say what per tonne cost they're aiming for (all of this will be left for some sort of commission to discuss). But let's say it's 10 times the amount that was being charged under the Liberal scheme, just to stick with the 10 times increment (and I know, that's a big assumption, because it might not need to be that high - or even at 10 times the cost, it still might not generate that level of revenue, it might need to go even higher). The Liberals were getting about $17 per tonne of emissions. Which means the NDP would be looking at $170 per tonne.

$170 per tonne just happens to be what the federal carbon price backstop will rise to in 2030.  $170 per tonne still might not be high enough to capture the real costs of pollution, but it's nothing to sneeze at either.

So that's pretty good, right? 

Wrong.

It's a good price. But the NDP also says that they don't want "the little guy" to get hurt via carbon pricing. And that's where everything in the Cap and Trade Ponzi Scheme completely breaks down. At $170 per tonne, you can bet that the additional costs endured by industry will be passed on to consumers. We just won't see it happening transparently (another big issue with Cap and Trade). But we're all going to get hit by those costs.

Under the federal backstop, we'd get hit by the costs, but most of us would come out ahead, thanks to the dividend that's rebated to consumers through income tax deductions.

In the NDP's new Ontario, we're all going to take a bath thanks to higher production costs that will be passed on - but there's nothing there for consumers (or very little - sure, there'll be some programs we can apply to for some stuff - but every day people - especially the most vulnerable, including those who rent are going to be hurt most of all).

Honestly, I don't think the NDP actually contemplate seeing their per tonne carbon price rise to $170 a tonne. And I don't believe that there's any way that a lower carbon price is going to drag in the $30 billion in revenue that the NDP is banking on. Their numbers (and there aren't many of them in the plan) don't appear to be realistic. In fact, they appear to be completely unrealistic - at least on this critical issue of "where is the funding going to come from?"


From Dr. David Robinson, Associate Professor of Economics, Laurentian University

Remember: the only way to achieve a reasonably high carbon price without leading to rioting in the streets is to give revenues back to consumers - just as the federal Liberals are now.  The ONDP's Cap and Trade scheme won't do that - so it will either fail because it will have a negligible impact on reducing pollution because the per tonne price is too low (as they've discovered in California; after years of working under Cap and Trade, emissions have actually risen), or it will work to make goods and services too expensive for consumers.

But again, I don't really believe the NDP has costed their plan. I don't think they've really given much thought to any of this. I think they made a political decision to go with Cap and Trade, because the Liberals are likely to go with a carbon tax (or to keep the federal backstop in place - because it's working, and will be working even better as the per tonne carbon cost rises).  

So, Ontario NDP, prove me wrong. Show us all your math. Because right now your "Green" New Democratic Deal looks like it's covered in fudge.


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Greens Need to be Realistic About Upcoming Federal Election - and Beyond

I realize CBC's Eric Grenier is focused on the NDP in this piece - but behind the words we see some serious issues for the Green Party of Canada (see: "Singh's NDP could gain a little — and lose a lot — in a spring election," CBC, March 3 2021). While the polls have been mostly stagnate over the past year and a bit, the NDP did see a bit of a drop, and now appear to have regained most of what they lost and are back to numbers that they saw in the 2019 election - 19%, with some polls putting them a little ahead.

The Green Party continues to poll a little better than our 2019 record (5-6% in polls right now; but we were at around 8% pre-eday 2019 vs. 6.5% actual in 2019), but Greens need to keep in mind this rule of thumb with the polls: Greens always poll higher than our vote share. Always. So when I see 5%, I think 3%.

Given that the coming election is going to be fought on the basis of Trudeau, COVID and the economy - not exactly in our Party's sweet spot - and given that our Party leaders seem keen to want to go head-to-head with the NDP, the latest polls that show that same NDP on the rise - with our party mired in 5th place - maybe it's time for this sobering reality to start having an impact on our electoral strategy.
I'm not saying that we should think about pressing the 'panic button' (not sure what we could do at this point to change things around), but I am suggesting that maybe this election is one where we should focus on keeping our powder dry. Let's introduce our leader to the country, try to get our current MP's elected, and maybe add two or three more, somewhere, somehow. And let the chips fall where they may. If that means the NDP pick up a few seats, so be it.

But it also means that whatever the electoral outcome, our Party needs to stick with our current leader. That's the bargain we've got to make in an election where holding on to what we've got is the measure of success.

I look around the internet and I know that the knives are out for Annamie Paul. Her critics within the party and on its fringes are tearing her down. After some initial media successes, she's largely disappeared - and when she does pop up (as she did recently with the Olympics), she's hardly motivating the base (and indeed, she's turning some off - and giving ammunition to her opponents). She's been good on LTC, and if that helps her win in Toronto Centre, that alone would be awesome. But it's an issue which the NDP will always be perceived to be better than us on - which makes it a loser issue for Greens.

If you don't believe me, that's fine. I'm just some guy shouting from the wilderness. But look no further than what the other former leadership candidates will be up to in the next election. Howard, Kuttner and Murray have publicly said they'll be sitting it out. Rumours are out there that Merner might not run again. Lascaris? I'm not fan of his, but I know he's a smart guy - there's not much benefit to him right now if he has leadership ambitions to run somewhere and lose. West will probably run, because that's what West does. Haddad? Is she even still a Green?

Trouble is on our horizon. Let's hope that the campaign team understands this and decides to be realistic with its expectations. So far, I haven't seen a lot of that realism emerge, given the desire to compete with the NDP and the selection of Toronto Centre as the riding for Paul to run in. But I do hope they're getting the message that this is an important election for us - and getting wiped out across the country will not help further the Green Party or our movement.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Maybe it's Time to Cancel Chris Hedges

I think maybe it's time to "cancel" Chris Hedges. Not because of racism or bigotry - but because he clearly has nothing to contribute to on-going discussions about the shifting attitudes towards BIPOC - and the political realities confronted by people of colour in their daily lives. Buying into the right-wing idea that "cancel culture" is a thing is a bad enough. Conflating it with the silencing of voices from the past whom lacked the power and political protection of the white majority - that's just egregious.
Hedges is setting up a false equivalency, seemingly largely based on the realities of the U.S. civil rights movement of 50-60 years ago. Yes, capitalism is a huge issue and we've got to do something about that. But enabling racism because some whites involved are disenfranchised by an oppressive economic elite IS NOT the answer.
Racism, in all of its forms (including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia) - and misogyny, anti-LGBTQIA2S+ - must be confronted and called out at every instance. Hedges is here actually preaching a kind of toleration in the name of finding allies for a larger project - tearing down capitalism. Maybe that's a worthy cause - but allying with the haters because of a larger common interest just isn't on. And frankly, it's not very likely that many allies are going to be found in that quarter anyway, given the serious embrace of capitalism of the political right - and probably more profoundly, their complete contempt for the left and the kind of socialism Hedges probably wants to use as a sword against capitalism.

Tolerance for the intolerant is the liberal recipe for continued inaction and failure. It may sound good and all to find common ground and to work with political foes - I'm all in favour of that - but if those "foes" are actually more than just political opponents and actually represent a clear and present danger to the well-being of individuals through their policies that seek to restrict the rights of women and BIPOC (not to mention outright hatred), they have zero place in civil discourse. If that means they're "canceled" so be it. We're not talking about canceling conservatives here - just bigots and haters. 

See: "Cancel Culture: Where Liberalism Goes to Die," Chris Hedges, mintpressnews.com, February 15, 2021.


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Statement on the LPAT Decision to Dismiss the Appeals Related to Planning Act Decisions for the Kingsway Entertainment District

Obviously, I am very disappointed with the decision.  I believe that the appellants raised serious and significant issues related to public policy as expressed by the unwavering direction that the City had appeared committed to with regards to putting a new arena in the downtown. As we know, after years of building public expectation that a new arena would be located in the downtown, through the production of reports and plans like the Downtown Sudbury Master Plan, and “From the Ground Up”, the city’s economic development plan, one vote by Council on the night of June 27, 2017 upended public expectations.  Significant public consultation had gone into informing the development of the plans that called for a downtown arena, but Council’s decision back in 2017 ignored those plans in favour of a new direction informed by interests different from those previously expressed by the public.

The ability of the appellants to present a fulsome case in this matter were restricted by the courts, which made a decision in Toronto that impacted the scope of our hearing in Greater Sudbury. The Toronto Rail Deck decision turned the new Bill 139 LPAT process into one that heavily favoured municipalities over public citizens like myself and the other appellants. Eventually, the LPAT’s flawed hearing process was altered, but not in time to prevent our hearing from going forward under the flawed rules. Had the appeals been filed prior to or after the Bill 139 process being in place, I believe today’s outcome would have been significantly different.

That said, Greater Sudburians should have every confidence that the city, the intervening parties, the appellants and the LPAT all engaged in the spirit of resolving the appeals expeditiously and professionally. As an unrepresented party, I was given every opportunity to fully participate in the hearing.  Although the legislative process for the hearing, and the hearing’s outcome were disappointing for me, I have nothing but respect for my fellow appellants, municipal staff and the legal teams that engaged in this matter before the Tribunal, and for the Tribunal itself.

Although the city now has the ability to move forward with this project, I have to echo the concerns and cautions expressed by so many other taxpaying citizens in my community. COVID-19 has changed everything. A decision back in 2017 to pursue a new entertainment district in an industrial area on the urban fringe may no longer make sense in light of today's fiscal realities.  The long-term sustainability and and health of the community now more than ever needs to take centre stage at this time of uncertainty.  

I’ll be reviewing the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal’s decision over the holidays to see whether there are any concerns that merit further action.


Steve May