Monthly Archives: September 2007

TVO Battle Blog: Hydro Rates

Crossposted to Today’s question: “A number of Ontario industries, from the forestry sector in the north to the manufacturing sector in the south, are struggling. Some say we should help lower their costs by reducing the price of energy. Should Ontario lower its hydro rates?” (400 word limit)

As residential customers we already pay less than the true cost of energy, and large industrial users pay even less than that. This is perhaps the worst kind of corporate welfare, because it encourages waste and inefficiency while harming competitiveness and contributing to pollution and a distorted market economy. Lowering hydro rates would not only be an environmental disaster, but in the long run would harm these sectors more than it would help. To the contrary, we should raise them.

Am I under any illusion that pledging to raise electricity rates to their true cost will be an instantly popular idea? Of course not. But it’s the right decision, and it must be done. As long as we keep the price of energy artificially low (not factoring in real “externalized” costs caused by air pollution, climate change, nuclear disaster insurance, etc.) we’ll be unable to fully realize what policies (investments in renewable energy, efficiency, decentralized generation, etc.) are actually the most economically responsible and ecologically sane.

At the same time, however, we must ensure that lower-income people, who could be the most vulnerable to higher energy prices, are not left in the dark. Increasing the price of energy must be done within the context of a tax “shift” which reduces income tax. A Green government would also provide targeted financial supports for energy retrofits and other cost-saving measures, which can reduce energy consumption (and, therefore, energy bills) by up to 80%.

We must also ensure there are other kinds of supports made available to Ontario industries, including the forestry sector and manufacturing sector. There are huge opportunities in those areas for the creation of more “green-collar” jobs and more internationally competitive businesses. We should learn from the lessons of American car manufacturers who complained inexplicably that increasing their efficiency would hurt them, only to be left in the dust by their Japanese counterparts. By subsidizing the price of energy and keeping it artificially low, we are discouraging innovation and positive progress. Good, responsible government would do precisely the opposite.


During yesterday’s trading, and then again today, the Canadian dollar achieved parity with the US dollar. Our economic system is a complex beast, not even fully understood by experts. However, there are likely two broad explanations for the dollar’s rise.

First, the American economy is in serious trouble. The events triggered by the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage Ponzi scheme have not yet played out in full. The housing boom was a key driver of US economic growth, but now over one million Americans risk losing their homes. In order to keep the market from collapsing, the Fed has injected more money than they did in the wake of 9/11. The other key to US economic strength, consumer spending, is also quite vulnerable thanks to a negative savings rate, declining consumer confidence, an average credit card debt of $9000 per person, and an average national debt of $29,500 per person. Oh, and then there’s the little matter of the $3,000,000,000.00 per week war in Iraq. The fact that our dollar is doing so well compared to the greenback isn’t necessarily something to brag about. You’d look like a supermodel too if you were standing next to an ogre.

The second reason the loonie’s gone loony is that our dollar has generally come to be considered a “petrocurrency,” in the sense that it has a close and direct relationship with the price of oil. The fact that oil is now hanging-out above $80 a barrel and is projected to continue to rise is an indication that we’ve used up all of the easily-accessible supply. The stuff that’s left in the ground is dirtier, more expensive, and more energy-intensive to extract (reducing the Energy Return On Energy Invested), meaning that until we shift from a paradigm of perpetual consumption and growth to one of conservation and efficiency, our energy crisis will only get worse.

In other words, the “high” dollar is hardly cause for celebration. Add to that the fact that our economy is already starting to feel the effects of what is likely to be a US recession, and the fact that the Conservative budget left us absolutely no wiggle-room for dealing with this eventuality.

And then that word, parity, starts to take on another, more sinister and dangerous meaning. An alignment with the US economy so tightly integrated that we can’t escape the increasingly powerful gravitational pull of its implosion. An alignment with the US military so close that we can’t say no to American-led wars. An alignment with US energy policy so one-sided that our own citizens freeze in the dark.

Wait, isn’t that just the worst-case scenario? Yes. It’s also where we’re heading.

Elizabeth’s Surgery A Success

From Camille:

As Elizabeth would say, “Hip hip hooray”!

I’m writing today to let you all know that Elizabeth May has successfully received a brand new hip. The surgery began at 8 AM this morning (Friday) at the Ottawa General Hospital. By 10 AM, her doctor had called to let us know that the surgery went according to plan and that Elizabeth is resting and doing great.

Not even ten minutes later, the phone rang again. This time, it was Elizabeth, who wanted to tell us for herself that she was doing well after a successful surgery!

Elizabeth will be recovering in the hospital for the next few days and is looking forward to being back on her feet again in six weeks (or less!). Please join me and the rest of the Green Party’s staff in wishing her a speedy recovery.

Camille Labchuk
Press Secretary

TVO Battle Blog: Leaders’ Debate

Crossposted to Today’s question: “Should more party leaders have been included in the Leaders’ Debate?” (400 word limit)

Yes. Frank de Jong and the Green Party of Ontario have earned their place at the table. Of course, it’s predictable and at least a bit self-serving for me to say that, so let’s take a look at the facts and arguments.

First, it’s important to understand that, contrary to the claims of our opponents, there are no rules for deciding who gets to be in the debate. None. The decision is made behind closed doors by a group of unelected and accountable broadcast executives using whatever criteria they chose. That’s not right; there should be an open and transparent process with clear criteria.

Second, there’s precedent. Provincial Green leaders have been included in other televised debates, including Adriane Carr in BC and, most recently, Sharon Labchuk in PEI.

Third, Greens are polling at an all-time high, within striking distance of the NDP. Thomas Walkom writes in The Toronto Star that “if I had to pick a winner for the week, it would be Frank de Jong’s Greens,” and Ian Urquhart says that The Greens have hit a nerve. In other words, we’re a serious, credible voice that many people are considering voting for. They deserve to hear what we have to say.

Fourth, as columnist John Lorinc points out, excluding the Green party means excluding whole issues and new ideas. It means, for example, that the majority of Ontarians who support the creation of one publicly funded school system will not hear from a single party leader who shares their views during tonight’s debate.

Finally–and, for me, most importantly–the overwhelming majority (close to 80%) of voters believe that the Greens should be included in the debates. We live in a democracy, so surely that counts for something. (Check out these responses to CBC posing the question.) And you have to ask yourself, if that many people want to hear where we stand, what right do the broadcasters have to deny them? And to the party leaders who oppose our inclusion: what are you afraid of?

I’d encourage you to read Frank de Jong’s excellent op-ed piece in today’s Toronto Sun outlining the reasons he should have been included. And if you’d like to hear what Frank has to say on the issues, check out during tonight’s debate. He’ll be responding to questions live, because he believes that you have a right to know where the Green party stands.