Monthly Archives: September 2007

TVO Battle Blog: Manufacturing Jobs

Crossposted to Today’s question: “Ontario’s manufacturing sector has lost thousands of jobs over the past few years. How much can the provincial government really do to stop the exodus of manufacturing jobs?” (400 word limit.)

I like the wording of this question, since I do believe it’s a bit disingenuous for political parties to say “we created X number of jobs,” or, “they lost Y number of jobs” over a short timeline. That being said, in the long run, there is much that government can do to create the right conditions for a healthy, thriving economy, including manufacturing and related industries.

I think, on a macro level, that the loss of manufacturing jobs in Ontario is a symptom of a shifting global economy. These industries are being squeezed by higher operating costs and increased international competition on the one hand, and the fact that value-added jobs are too often the exclusive domain of other jurisdictions on the other.

The Ontario government does not have the power to single-handedly reverse these global economic realities. Therefore, fighting against them (trying to artificially maintain the status quo at all costs) is a failing proposition. We do, however, have the ability to create new opportunities in the manufacturing sector and in the North, and to smartly adapt to global change, both economic and climate (which will disproportionately affect the North).

The Green party’s election platform explains that, realistically, “the North must diversify its economy to retain its workforce and standard of living. It could do so through an aggressive pursuit of secondary and tertiary manufacturing opportunities to create ‘value added’ products, and by capitalizing on the tourism opportunities that lie in its inherent natural beauty.”

Specifically, the Green Party of Ontario would:

  • Establish a sustainable business development program for northern and rural communities by investing $1 billion over four years to encourage green business investment and job creation
  • Invest $11.5 million over four years to alleviate labour shortages, especially in the skilled trades
  • Inject $180 million into economic development initiatives [for the North]

There are, of course, more details and specifics in the platform [pdf], specifically pages 6-9 (according to the printed numbering, not the PDF’s numbering).

Garth Turner Threatens to Kidnap Elizabeth May

I’m not really clear on why. He says he’ll “explain in the car.” I’m pretty sure it should be taken as a compliment.

She’s doing great since her hip replacement last week, by the way. She’s been discharged from the hospital, and was scheduled to be on the Current this morning. Come to to think of it, maybe someone should kidnap her and force her to rest for Pete’s sake.

Harper: Embarrassing and Defeatist

I remember the exact moment when I no longer thought Mel Lastman’s antics and gaffs were funny. On April 24th, 2003 he appeared on CNN during the SARS crisis and infamously criticized the World Health Organization, saying “They don’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t know who this group is. I’ve never heard of them before.” Suddenly, with the whole world watching, having a leader so out of touch with reality was profoundly embarrassing.

Today at the United Nations, Stephen Harper, who is now violating both international and domestic law, continued to embarrass Canada in front of the world. Jim Johnston unpacks one of his more perplexing statements:

As I listened to the report on CBC of the Prime Minister’s speech on climate change, I heard a reference to his belief that market forces will lead to technological innovation which will eventually lead to solving the climate crisis.

What market forces is he talking about? The market forces I see operating are that people and corporations will buy the cheapest power available, irrespective of CO2, GHG or the impact of depleted uranium. The enlightened few may pay more for clean energy, but the market force is predominantly “fueled” by price. These same market forces drive manufacturing and assembly operations to the countries with the lowest labour cost, irrespective of worker conditions and human rights.

Market forces can be used to advantage through tax shifting, cap and trade mechanisms and well designed programs, such as R&D funding for alternative energy development and commercialization. The Prime Minister is missing the point that without these measures, the market will continue to do exactly what it has always done, consuming the unvalued portions of our habitat – particularly clean air and fresh, clean water.

Economic fundamentals say that the price point drives both the supply curve and the demand curve. Without changing the price points, market mechanisms will not solve the problems that face us today. In fact, the market mechanisms based on “free” air, “free” water, “free” ecosystem and “free” garbage disposal are what got us into trouble in the first place.

I also came across this post by Lord Kitchener’s Own which contains some very helpful highlights from a David Suzuki Foundation report [pdf] outlining how much further along other countries are in doing the “impossible” and implementing Kyoto. There’s a long list, and, well…

To me, Iceland is the most shocking indictment of Canada’s failure. Under Kyoto, Iceland was actually permitted to INCREASE their emissions to 10% above their 1990 emissions, while Canada committed to a reduction to 6% below our 1990 emissions. Since then, Iceland has reduced their emissions to 2% below their 1990 levels, while Canada’s emissions have increased to more than 30% above 1990 levels. So, Iceland’s target was 10% ABOVE 1990, ours was 6% BELOW 1990, and Iceland is currently WAY closer to hitting OUR target, than we are to hitting theirs!!!

And no, their economy hasn’t even been destroyed. I’m as surprised as you are.

Appointed Politicians

Imagine a voting system where politicians or “party hacks” can be appointed in back rooms by other politicians and be practically guaranteed a spot in the legislature, regardless of what the voters really want.

Stop imagining. That’s the system we have now. When it comes to how parties appoint their candidates, there are almost no requirements for transparency. And, if party bosses decide they’re going to parachute a candidate into a “safe” riding, local people have nothing to say about it. Possibly even worse, at least some people will feel like they have to vote “strategically” for that candidate even if they don’t like them or object to how they were appointed, because they’re too afraid of who else might get elected.

Now, imagine a system where parties are required to disclose the process they use to nominate their candidates. A system where the make-up of their candidate list (gender balance, regional balance, ethnic diversity, etc.) as well as the democratic (or not) process they used to create it becomes an election issue.

Stop imagining. That’s just one of the advantages of MMP, the new voting system proposed by the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly. And, since voters get two votes (one for the candidate, and one for the party), they’re able to reward or punish parties and candidates accordingly. For example, if a party foolishly nominates unpopular candidates to their list, voters can punish them without needing to vote against their preferred local candidate. On the other hand, if a voter is happy with a party overall but dissatisfied with their local candidate, they can express that with their vote (by voting for the party but not the party’s local candidate). In that way, parties and candidates are even more accountable to voters.

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