Monthly Archives: June 2007

This Is The Question

The question Ontarians will be asked in the October 10th referendum is: “Which electoral system should Ontario use to elect members to the provincial legislature?” Voters will then indicate a choice between the First Past the Post system and the Mixed Member Proportional system.

This question seems designed to favour the status quo. We didn’t need that; with a (possibly unconstitutional) 60% threshold required for a “yes to MMP” victory, votes for the status quo are already being weighted more heavily than votes for change. The Ontario government should have used a question following the format of the British Colombian referendum, which was “Should British Columbia change to the BC-STV electoral system as recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform? Yes/No.”

It’s important for voters to understand that this new voting system was designed and recommended by their peers, just as sub-committees typically report recommendations to their parent committees.

So here’s the real question: why are the people in power so afraid of giving Ontarians a democratic, simple majority yes/no vote on such a fundamental issue?

UPDATE (June 22nd, 2007): The way the two options are worded addresses my primary concern. Apologies, that wasn’t in the original news report I read. Thanks to Saul for pointing it out.

Steep carbon tax could actually stimulate economy: report

It’s not every day you read a glowing news report about the Green Party in the National Post, but we live in interesting times. The story in yesterday’s paper has the same headline as this blog entry, and begins as follows:

OTTAWA — It was denounced by Environment Minister John Baird as “the mother of all taxes,” but a new report for the federal government says a $50-per-tonne carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas pollution would do little harm to the Canadian economy.

The study – titled “Cost Curves for Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction in Canada: The Kyoto Period and Beyond” – was submitted to the government in January.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May said it proves the Conservatives knew the top experts were urging them to accept her proposal of a $50-per-tonne carbon tax as the most effective tool to fight global warming.

“The Canadian public can conclude that the Harper government is deliberately misleading them when they claim that a carbon tax does serious damage to the economy, because they know it’s not true,” May said at a news conference.

In an analysis of carbon taxes ranging from $10 per tonne up to $250 per tonne, the report, obtained by May through an Access to Information request, concluded that the $50-per-tonne carbon tax could even have a positive effect on the economy by 2015. The Green party has proposed a tax shift by transferring revenues from the new carbon tax to reductions in payroll taxes for companies and in income taxes for individuals.

Mark Jaccard, whose consulting firm produced the study and who has been recognized by senior government officials as “one of Canada’s top climate policy experts,” went on to say, “if we’re serious about reducing greenhouse gases, we have to have a carbon tax or its equivalent. So in fact, Elizabeth May is the only politician who’s being honest to Canadians right now.”

In summary, our government has had a report in their hands since January, from one of their own trusted experts, that says they’re wrong and we’re right. They tried to keep this report secret, and we only now know about it because Elizabeth May obtained it through the Access to Information Act.

They know it’s not true that action on climate change would cripple the economy. They know that a carbon tax is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change. They know that the Green Party’s “tax shift” idea (reduce income and payroll taxes, add carbon and pollution taxes) could actually stimulate the economy.

Faced with those facts, they decided the best thing to do would be to try and keep this information from Canadians. Honestly, what kind of mind works like that?

Thanks Elizabeth, Bill

Last night Elizabeth May came to Toronto Centre for two great events. The first was a Pride Week meet & greet at Byzantium on Church Street, where a diverse group of people gathered to enjoy a special “Green Martini” that had been prepared for the evening. Elizabeth re-affirmed our party’s commitment to LGBT equality, pointing out that the Green Party of Canada is the only federal party to have ever had an openly gay leader (Chris Lea), and was the first party to support equal marriage when we did so in 1996. The second event was an incredible meal at Jamie Kennedy’s Wine Bar (also on Church) with a packed room of about 90 people. Video of both these events to follow.

It was only upon arriving at the first event that I heard Bill Graham had announced his resignation, effective July 2nd, just hours before in the House of Commons. He finished his parting remarks with the following, which is worth reprinting here:

In closing, I want to say one thing about the civility of this place. There has been a lot in the press recently about the lack of civility in the House. It may be attributable to the minority situation we are in and it may be attributable to a lot of causes, but surely we owe it to ourselves to disagree without being disagreeable. We do not need to do that.

I believe everyone in the House carries within him or her the desire to serve our country and, whether one has that desire or not, the capacity to affect the future lives of every citizen of this great land, and to some extent others around the globe. Let us treat each other with the respect that thought brings. In what we bring to this place, let us respect one another and, in so doing, I believe our fellow countrymen will respect this institution and respect us for the work we do.

Those words informed my comments at last night’s dinner. It’s not just the lack of civility that’s worrisome, it’s the disrespect that this government is showing for Parliament itself. Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party have the right to believe what they do, to advocate for their positions, to run in elections, and to implement their agenda when elected. They do not, however, have the right to sabotage our democratic systems, which is what they are guilty of doing.

I want to publicly say again that Bill has been a good MP and that I’m grateful to him for his years of service. It was fun having him as an opponent. There’s one final quote I’d like to leave you with, again taken from his comments in the House yesterday, that I found particularly interesting.

“It is important that [the people of Toronto Centre] be represented by a future voice rather than someone from the past.”

Nomination Crashers III & IV

As I write this, I’m aware that third and fourth sequels rarely do justice to the original. (Police Academy and Jaws, I’m looking at you.) Nomination Crashers and Nomination Crashers II were good enough, I probably shouldn’t push it. But, alas, here we are.

This edition of Nomination Crashers is a double-header, because, yes, last Thursday I attended two (very different) Toronto Centre nomination meetings on the same night. The first was the nomination meeting for the provincial Liberals, though I’m told it was actually promoted to Liberals as the “George Smitherman Nomination Meeting.” Hundreds of people filled the Wellesley Community Centre gym to enjoy free catered food (samosas, sausage rolls, pizza, apples, and finally ice cream came around on trays carried by a uniformed wait staff) and watch dancers and other entertainment. I felt a little guilty eating the food, but only a little. No one would want it to go to waste…

As the meeting’s official name suggests, there was (almost) no attempt to pretend this was anything but a coronation. Even the signs behind the stage had George’s face on them, and nominations were declared open just long enough for Bob Rae (why does that name sound familiar?) to nominate George before they were immediately closed again. He then took the stage and, strangely, feigned surprise and speechlessness. His speech didn’t speak to me, so I won’t comment on it further. Though, to be fair, I may have been too distracted by the ice cream.

From there, I biked down the street to the 519 Community Centre where the provincial NDP were having their nomination meeting. Hard to compare the two. On the one hand, the NDP didn’t have any free food, and the juice was being served in extremely tiny paper cups I’ve only ever seen before at dentist offices. On the other hand, it was actually a real nomination meeting. So, you know, hard to compare. There were three women seeking the nomination, including Sandra Gonzalez who was ultimately victorious. She’d previously run against El-Farouk Khaki for the federal nomination, and will make a good candidate. The most entertaining moment of this meeting happened during one of the other contestants’ speeches, when one of their supporters started yelling scripted responses in planned breaks, like “yes sister!” and “preach it!” and “testify!” In case there was any doubt that those passionate outbursts were planned, I later looked over to see that person subtly mouthing the words of the speech along with the contestant.

Again, I met people at both meetings who recognized me and let me know they’d voted for me in the last election, which is interesting.

The nominations of George and Sandra follow the Conservative nomination of Pamela Taylor and the Green Party of Ontario’s nomination of Mike McLean, whose blog is here. The Ontario Provincial election happens on October 10th 2007, concurrent with the referendum on MMP.