Friday, January 30, 2009

Could Liberal MP's Rejection of the Budget Lead to the Rise of a Newfoundland and Labrador Party?

(originally posted at

And so it begins. Reports are coming out today that two Liberal MP’s are ready to vote against the Harper-Ignatieff budget when it comes to a vote. Both MP’s are from the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, a province whose Premier is Danny Williams, who has been very vocal about the budget. Recall that immediately after the budget was announced, Danny Williams took to the airwaves and called on Ignatieff to defeat it. Looks like at least two of the six Liberal MP’s from Newfoundland and Labrador are heeding his call, even if their Leader Ignatieff isn’t.

And why shouldn’t those MP’s in Newfoundland and Labrador listen to Williams? Certainly Williams’ A-B-C (“Anybody But Conservative”) campaign during the last Federal election contributed to the success of the Liberals (and NDP) in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Aside from being one of the most anti-Harper public figures in the country, Williams is very concerned that the budget shorts his province about $1.5 billion dollars in equalization payments, as per the Atlantic Accord. Quebec Premier Jean Charest has also been grumbling about his province being short-changed as well. The difference is, in Quebec, there is a regional party on the national stage which always speaks out for the interests of that province, and Gilles Duceppe has been very vocal in his opposition to the budget already. Newfoundland and Labrador don’t have such a party. But it is interesting to wonder if they might in the future.

Danny Williams has already been laying this groundwork. A fiscal conservative who largely believes in social equity, Williams has been at odds with Harper over Harper’s vision of small national government, particularly one which pays little or no attention to smaller players like Newfoundland and Labrador. With the help of the A-B-C campaign, voters in Newfoundland and Labrador returned results during the last Federal election which ran counter to national results, returning zero Conservatives to parliament.

Now, with Liberal MP’s threatening to split ranks from a Liberal Party which has already started consolidating power in it’s Leader at the expense of the rank and file, can it be long before a Newfoundland and Labrador Party starts to take shape in that Province? Such a party would likely reflect Williams’ own mentality of fiscal conservatism.

Think its far fetched? No way. There has always been a strong sense among many Newfoundlanders that Canada has really bungled the deal it made to bring Newfoundland into confederation. Although the collapse of the cod fishery is now old news, it is a glaring example of how Canadian mismanagement of a Newfoundland resource so critical to that Province’s well being (not to mention pride and heritage) has led to discontent with the national government. For long, such discontent boiled below the surface, bubbling up only occasionally. But with Danny Williams now on the scene, such displays of discontent are become more the rule than the exception. As Newfoundland and Labrador begins to explore its new self-esteem on the national stage, bouyed by increased oil revenues, it is finding its own voice. And it is finding that voice to be one which is often counter to the mainstream political parties in Canada. And I unfortunately have to include our own Party in that equation, for although Williams financial point of view might be a good fit with our Party, his environmental record leaves a lot to be desired.

So, what could happen if we saw the rise of a new Newfoundland and Labrador Party on the national stage to advocate for the interests of that Province (whether within confederation or, like the Bloc, outside of it, remains to be seen)? Certainly such a party would continue to fracture the make-up of parliament, as it would likely be successful right away at putting MP’s in the House. Potentially, this could lead to a situation where the other political parties might have to work together even more, likely on a case by case basis, to further their own political interests. That likely means a greater chance that more formal coalitions might develop.

If we Greens are thrown into such a parliamentary mix as well, by electing our own MP’s, the outcome would likely be more minority governments, more opportunities for coalitions of interest to develop, and a greater chance at finally reforming our electoral system. So, in this brief analysis, although the rise of a Newfoundland and Labrador Party doesn’t appear to help the Green Party, there may be some helpful impacts down the road.

Unfortunately, I don’t see any immediate opportunities for the Green Party in Newfoundland and Labrador as a direct result of this budgetary mess. But I have to wonder, if Liberal MP’s in Newfoundland and Labrador are ultimately expelled from the Liberal caucus for voting against Ignatieff’s direction, how deep ultimately is their commitment to Stephane Dion’s platform on which they ran and were elected? As it seems unlikely that Ignatieff’s Liberals, or any other Party currently in parliament will be campaigning on the basis of an Income Tax shift to carbon revenue in the next election, might there be an opening for a Green conversion? And I don’t know enough about the personalities involved to make such an assessment. But I hope others start looking into it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Harper About To Miss Green Opportunity

(originally posted at; cross-posted to

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government is about to unveil its much awaited budget to address the stated goal of providing stimulation to our economy in these increasingly troubled times.

If what we have been hearing about the budget over these past few days through leaks to the media holds true, the budget will miss a historic opportunity to start addressing the many challenges we Canadians face. Most importantly, today's budget needs to begin the process of creating a truly sustainable Canadian economy. Unfortunately, it seems Harper and the Conservatives are lacking in vision.

In these difficult times, international organizations such as the IMF and APEC have recommended an increase to public spending roughly equal to two per cent of a nation's Gross Domestic Product. Such spending, however, needs to be strategically targeted to ensure that the results we achieve prove to be beneficial to the costs incurred. Investment in green municipal infrastructure through sharing GST revenues directly with municipalities will permit shovel-ready green projects to move forward. Projects that promote healthy lifestyles and physical fitness will create jobs in our communities, as well as benefit our families in the long term.

Investments in manufacturing and the auto sector that capitalize on a shift to a low-carbon economy will also produce results good for Canada. Investing in energy production from renewable energy sources will begin the process of shifting from our old brown economy towards a more sustainable model.

Cutting revenue sources such as taxes, if not offset by new revenue sources, will decrease opportunities for public investment and hamper our ability to begin paying off the deficits we will be accumulating. If income taxes are to be cut, new revenue sources need to be explored. Since it makes economic sense to derive revenue from activities which are ultimately harmful to ourselves and our communities, such as taxing cigarettes, it seems sensible that we look first for these opportunities. A good way of freeing up needed revenue would be to end corporate welfare by eliminating the massive subsidies our government makes to the fossil fuel sector, which total approximately $1.4 billion a year. Putting charges on carbon emissions would also assist with shifting revenues away from income taxes.

I sincerely hope the Conservative government will attempt to face these challenges head on by offering targeted investment in green infrastructure and cutting taxes for the least well off in our communities, along with the caveat that new green revenue sources are put in place to make up the difference.

While I hope for these outcomes, I don't believe that Harper will have the vision necessary to begin moving Canada in this direction. We will all find out soon.

If we see tax cuts in the budget without new revenues from green sources, and calls for investment in brown infrastructure, we'll know that Harper and Conservatives truly don't understand the needs of Canadians.

-Published as the Letter of the Day in the Sudbury Star (a division of Sun Media), January 27 2009.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Good News! Globe & Mail Editorialist Margaret Wente Shares With Us All That Global Warming Has Been Proven To Be ON HOLD

(originally posted at

Wow. Some "good and unexpected" news from the Globe and Mail today. That Margaret Wente, boy, she's some cutting edge, ain't she? I'm glad that she's here to share the good news with the rest of us.

Stuff like this really really irritates the hell out of me. So much of the good work of public education just kinda goes down the drain when someone like this is given a pulpit to preach from.

Time to flood the Globe with some emails providing some real facts on climate change in place of this nonsense?