Conservative Canada

By now you’re almost certainly aware that the Conservatives won a minority in last night’s federal election (just as I predicted). During his concession speech, Paul Martin announced he will not lead the Liberal party in the next election. There are three main things about the election I found interesting:

  1. The magic number of 155 is hard to find, which means things will be especially intriguing. All the parties realize we don’t want to vote again right away, so it makes it even more important that they try to work together.
  2. The Conservatives gained a fair number of seats in Quebec. One wonders what this means for the separatists!
  3. I didn’t expect a completely blue Alberta, but that’s what we ended up with.

I followed the results online last night, and watched some of the post-election commentary on CBC. I don’t have much to say really, except that I hope the minority government doesn’t collapse right away. Lots of other people have far more interesting things to say than me:

There’s lots more interesting commentary if you do a quick search on Technorati or IceRocket or one of those. Seems to me that many Americans are not happy with our new government!

Voted NDP

Post ImageI mentioned yesterday that I had my choice narrowed down to two. Didn’t want to vote for the Liberals again (need some change) and I don’t align closely enough with the Greens (not that I entirely like any of the parties). For me, it was either NDP or Conservatives (I know!). I ended up voting NDP, for a number of reasons:

  • I like the Conservatives as the provincial government for Alberta, and indeed I did vote for Ralph Klein in the last election. I don’t think a federal Conservative government quite fits the same way.
  • Truthfully, Harper is a little odd, and I don’t think he’d make a very good Prime Minister.
  • The NDP won’t win the election, but a larger number of seats for them in the house is good for all of us during these minority governments (I don’t think the Conservatives will win a majority).
  • Apparently, my NDP candidate has a good shot of being the only non-Tory Edmonton MP.

So now we wait to see the results. Hopefully lots of people voted today, especially with the bogus emails floating around. Polls have closed in the east already, so it won’t be long!

Please Canada, develop the oil sands of Alberta!

Post ImageI have long thought that we as a country should be investing more money in energy, including properly developing Alberta’s vast oil sands. Canada could become the most important region in the world for oil if we were able to extract it efficiently enough – and while it may not the best for the environment, it would certainly be a welcome change to have the oil capital of the world in a democratic, peaceful place for once. A new report from CIBC World Markets seems to support the idea of developing the oil sands, suggesting it will become the most important source of new oil by 2010:

Alberta will sit on one of the most valuable energy sources in the world by that time, and one of the few still open to private investment, said Jeff Rubin, chief economist at CIBC World Markets, the bank’s wholesale banking arm.

He added that conventional oil production around the world apparently peaked in 2004.

Energy companies are finding new oil, but most of it will come from non-conventional sources. Ocean oil rigs are the primary source of new oil today, with Alberta’s oil sands tomorrow, with expansion projects rivaling those of Saudi Arabia.

If we were able to properly develop the oil sands, without ceding too much control to the United States, Canada could become very rich, and the world would have oil for longer than is currently projected. This means two things would happen; first, the push for alternative energy sources may be slightly delayed and second, Canada could use its new wealth to invest in those alternative energy sources to be prepared for the time when no more oil can be extracted. If we sit back and choose not to increase production, the world will shift to other sources of energy more quickly, and we might one day be left with a bunch of useless oil, or at least, much less valuable oil.

One of the problems with the oil sands is that our technology is not good enough to efficiently extract the oil on a large scale. There has been some progress, but not enough. So how do we solve that problem?

  • We could just hope that Syncrude, Suncor, and the other companies involved figure it out.
  • The Canadian government itself could hire lots of researchers, engineers, chemists, whoever it takes, to try and improve the technology.
  • Canada could sponsor a research competition, kind of like NASA or DARPA’s popular programs in the United States. Challenge people to develop the most efficient, least harmful process for extracting oil from the oil sands. This is probably the best way to get some quick, meaningful innovation.

The point is that problems are not insurmountable.

There are lots of people who want Alberta to be the only one to profit from our reserves, but I don’t think there’s any reason that Alberta cannot be properly compensated and still have the entire country benefit. We don’t want Trudeau’s NEP, but we do need a national policy that recognizes Alberta and benefits all.

Unfortunately, our political parties do not seem that interested in developing such a policy. Vitality Magazine has a good round up of the “green” platforms the parties have announced for Monday’s election. There are quite a few mentions of alternative energy sources, but no mention of the oil sands. I think if we’re serious about alternative energy, we need to invest a lot of money into it, and what better way to obtain that much money than by fully exploiting the oil sands?

The oil sands offer our country very unique possibilities for the future. Let’s do something with the oil sands and take advantage of those possibilities!

(For more information, read these notes I took during a September 2005 conference that included some discussion on Canada, the oil sands, and the need for a national policy on energy.)

Defending Canadian Democracy

Post ImageI signed the Green Party petition seeking to have that party included in the televised debates because I strongly feel they should be! I didn’t vote Green last time, and I may not this time either, but I still think that any party with a candidate in every riding should be allowed to take part. If the Bloc Québécois can take part, certainly the Green Party should be able to. Here’s part of an email I got today:

Thanks to the participation of people like you, we now have over 40,000 signatures on our online petition for Green Party of Canada leader Jim Harris to be included in the televised leaders’ debates. The broadcasters are taking notice, but still have not reversed their decision.

Now we need to push that number to over 50,000 people before the final televised debates start on Monday evening. Only 10,000 people submitted questions for the other party leaders in the first debates, so this would mean that five times more Canadians are asking for all five leaders to be in the debate.

Can you help us achieve that goal by asking friends, family, and colleagues to sign on too? Remember, this is not necessarily about supporting the Green Party of Canada, its about defending Canadian democracy!

The easiest way for you to help is to use the new page we set up for this at: http://www.info-greenparty.ca/petition/forwardmsg.asp.

If you’re in Canada and you agree, please sign the petition. I am skeptical that the television executives will change their minds, but stranger things have happened.

Thoughts on the debate

Post ImageI watched the start and finish of the first English debate last night, and I listened to most of the rest on the radio. I think the format worked pretty well, except I felt at times that it would have been good to let the leaders get at each other’s throats! I was talking with some friends last night at Denny’s and we couldn’t figure out who Trina McQueen was. A quick Google search reveals that she is on the CBC’s Board of Directors. She did a good job of keeping everyone in line. Here are some thoughts on the debate:

  • Jack Layton was definitely passionate, but he was also the only one who repeatedly went over time. Ms. McQueen had to cut him off quite a few times.
  • Anyone else think it was funny that Gilles Duceppe kept saying that most of the issues were provincial and not national problems? That seemed to be his response to everything.
  • I think that both Stephen Harper and Paul Martin did quite well. They seemed to be very sure of their answers. I also like that Harper spent more time promoting his own platform than trying to bring down the Liberals (unlike Duceppe, and to a lesser extent Layton).
  • I still think the Green Party should have been part of the debate. I signed their petition.
  • One of the best moments for Harper was when the question turned to Belinda Stronach – I think Harper handled that issue better than any of the other leaders.
  • I don’t think any of them really answered questions about NAFTA very well. Seemed to me they all tried to skirt the issue. Same goes for the same sex marriage issue, there was nothing new presented, just the same old rhetoric from each.

I’m looking forward to the next debate – should be interesting. Not surprisingly, there are lots of news articles offering opinions on the debate if you missed it.

Reducing GST?

Post ImageOne of the big stories in Canada today was Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s pledge to reduce our GST from 7% to 5% if his party wins the election. The reduction would be 1% immediately, and another percent sometime within five years. Apparently, savings would be fairly good:

Canadians would have $4.5 billion put back in their pockets with the first reduction, said Harper. An average family of four earning $60,000 a year would pay about $400 less in taxes. The GST reduction would be a “tax cut you see every time you shop. No politician will be able to take it away without you noticing.”

Sounds good, but think about it for a second. Who does GST really affect? People who buy a lot of stuff beyond the basics (GST is not charged on basic groceries, most medical services, etc). Those are typically people who are already rich. So essentially, GST reduction helps those with lots of money. Personal income tax cuts in the lower income brackets, as the Liberals have suggested, help those with less money.

That being said, I agree with NDP Leader Jack Layton:

“Deep tax cuts right now are not what Canadians are looking for.”

Do I really care if GST is around after the election? I have lived most of my life with GST, and I have come to accept that it’s going to be there. Instead of giving that 7% back to me (or even part of it) I’d rather see the government do something meaningful with it. Of course that’s where it gets tricky, because what I think is useful may not be what someone else thinks is useful. For example, I wish we’d stop spending so much money on Africa, though there are lots of Canadian who would disagree with me.

The announcement today by Harper has “dirty” written all over it as far as I am concerned. Recall in 1993 the Liberals promised to abolish the GST and that didn’t happen. I don’t feel the Conservative promise is any more solid. How about announcing something more meaningful? A promise to cut GST is something I’d expect the day before the election to try and win the swing voters, not something you propose right away.

Read: CBC News