Category Archives: economy

We Need Green MPs Now

Yesterday, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) released a report that says we must start paying a price for carbon emissions, and that a carbon tax in conjunction with a cap and trade system for big polluters is the best plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without harming the economy. The NRTEE now joins “a chorus of the country’s top economists and major banking institutions who say the only way to alter Canada’s emissions is to change market behaviour with a tax.” Environmental organizations were also unanimous in their praise of the report’s recommendations. Predictably, however, John Baird rejected the recommendation (childishly, too), even though it was his own government that created the panel, selected its membership, and tasked them with creating the report in the first place.

And yet, you’d think that with environmentalists, the banks, economists, and others on board, there would be at least one opposition party that was able to creditably take the government to task for so quickly throwing out this report, right? Unfortunately, for reasons I’m not quite able to grasp, not a single party in the House of Commons had the (wisdom? courage? political foresight?) to call for what is increasingly acknowledged as necessary and urgent.

Only the Green Party supports a carbon tax, which we would use to reduce taxes on income and investment. It’s incorporated in our detailed climate plan released last summer, and has been a core policy position for longer than I’ve been involved. Like so much of our vision for Canada, it is an idea whose time has come.

It’s reasons like this (not to mention this) that not only must Elizabeth May be in the leaders’ debate during the next general election, but we need Green MPs in Parliament as soon as possible. According to a poll released two days ago, most Canadians agree, and would like to see a Parliament with 25 Green MPs. (Not surprising, since under a fair voting system that’s around what our current level of support would produce.)

The Toronto Centre by-election represents an opportunity to realize that desire. A strong finish will (hopefully) scare the other parties into smartening up. A win would be historic, and break the old-line monopoly in Ottawa. It would mean ideas whose time has come would finally be taken seriously and begin to be implemented. And it wouldn’t be a moment too soon.

Gross National Happiness

I heard on the radio this morning that the King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, is promoting GNH (Gross National Happiness) as that country’s key indicator of progress. (Heck, just try saying Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s name out loud without becoming a little bit happier.) This AFP story reports that a World Bank official subsequently said that more countries should follow that lead.

GNH is a variation on a Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) that I’ve argued for previously in some detail, and is an attempt to address the problem of our current worship utilization of the GDP as if it was an indicator of increased quality of life, which, after a certain point, it isn’t. Even one of the initial architects of the GDP warned against its use in that way. Just because the overall size of the economy has increased doesn’t mean we’re better off or getting more out of life.

Instead, a GPI takes into account all the things we value as a society—volunteerism, health, peace, meaningful employment, equal opportunity, economic strength, and yes, happiness—and quantifies them so that we can have an accurate measure of if we’re headed in the right direction or not. Implementing a national GPI would be one of the smartest things our government could do to help us all start to understand not only what’s good about what we’ve got, but how much better things could be.

Further Reading:
Reporting Back: Green Party of Canada Policy Conference, Halifax
Dr. Ron Colman – “A Sobering Place to Begin”
Dr. Peter Victor – Managing Without Growth
Our Economic Pyramid Scheme

Shell Of An Economy

From Rick Salutin, in a thought-provoking column titled A nation consumed by retail:

What will an all-retail economy look like, when that day arrives? My stretch of College Street in Toronto is pretty much restaurants and cafés, rarely broken by even a futon store or 7-Eleven. Can a society survive by serving each other lattes? People rise in the morning, go to their posts and start feeding the customers. But everyone does it, so they’re all running in and out, serving and being served. I have to finish this croissant so I can rush back and make you a falafel. I extend the metaphor to those who serve information or entertainment. That’s the shell of an economy left when you produce almost nothing for basic need. Not to mention the small matter of dignity involved in making things you need and use each day.

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).