views from canada’s left coast

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Bon voyage Randall Garrison, hello electoral opportunity

Randall Garrison has announced that he is stepping down as the NDP candidate in Vancouver Centre (read about it here). I do not know much about Garrison, but I do know that he stood almost no chance of winning in Vancouver Centre.  The last two elections the NDP ran much stronger candidates in Vancouver Centre and lost convincingly both times (Svend Robinson in 2006, Kennedy Stewart in 2004).  Hedy Fry looks like she will once again win easily in Vancouver Centre, but this time her main competition likely will come from the Greens who are running one of their deputy leaders, and former leader of the BC Green Party, Adrianne Carr.

What could make the race very interesting, though I doubt it will happen, is if Lorne Mayencourt decides to run for the Conservatives.  I would give Mayencourt no chance of actually winning as a Conservative, but he would have some name recognition and a core group of supporters that could help him to boost the Conservative vote totals.  There may be an election this fall, so the NDP and the Conservatives both have to get busy and nominate candidates for Vancouver Centre. If I were a planner with the NDP I would be looking for someone with a high profile to run in Vancouver Centre.  If Mayencourt does run for the Conservatives then the NDP may suddenly be part of what could be a very close race.

Hedy Fry won 43.8% of the vote in 2006, 15% more than the second place Svend Robinson (NDP, 28.7%).  The Conservatives pulled in 20.5% with a very nice guy in Tony Fogarassy, but ultimately a weak candidate.  The Green Party won 5.8% with Jared Evans, a candidate without any significant experience.

Adrianne Carr immediately changes the dynamic for the next election.  I would guess that she will pull down at least 15% of the vote, maybe more.  Where that extra 10% or so comes from will be harder to figure out, I would think that most of it would come from the NDP but that some amounts could also come from the Liberals and the Conservatives.  Carr by herself will not bring in enough votes to unseat Hedy Fry, but if Mayencourt were to also run, and pick up 5-10% more of the vote for the Conservatives, then the vote would get quite close.  If Mayencourt could win say 28%, Carr 15%, that leaves 55% or so to divide between the Liberals and the NDP (knock off a couple percent for all the fringe parties).

If the NDP were to run a strong candidate, and manage to pick up just a few percentage points over 2006 (say 31%) then they could conceivably win in Vancouver Centre.  The problem with the math I have been using is that anyone could conceivably win.  Hedy Fry needs to fall a long way to lose, but she could.  The Conservatives could even wind up winning with around 30% of the vote if they go with a strong local candidate like Lorne Mayencourt.  Adrianne Carr might do better than the 15% I am going with.  The main point is that Vancouver Centre could be a very interesting race this fall (or in 2009 if we get that far) if the right people run for the Conservatives and the NDP.

I would hope that the NDP and the Conservatives see the potential in Vancouver Centre and nominate strong candidates. Being that the riding covers downtown Vancouver, it is an important media market, one that grabs quite a few headlines, meaning that even in a losing cause it is important for all the federal parties. I just want some excitement in my riding, rather than the usual coronation of Hedy Fry that has been taking place over the past 5 elections.


June 25, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of course Albertans will pay more, and they should because they pollute more

It is getting frustrating reading all over about how Albertans will pay the largest portion of the Liberals proposed Green Shift carbon tax.  Of course Albertans will pay the most, they pump the most carbon into the environment.  Why should Alberta get to reap the benefits of the oil-sands and conventional oil production, releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the environment, reaping huge economic benefits, and not be expected to pay for the environmental costs?  The Alberta government could help consumers avoid drastic carbon taxes by requiring oil-sands operations to capture and sequester carbon dioxide emissions, ditto for coal burning power plants.

I am tired of politicians kowtowing to Alberta.  Alberta is responsible for a large share of Canada’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, and they benefit enormously economically from dumping GHGs into the environment.  Albertans should have to bear a large share of the costs associated with reducing GHGs, just as they have reaped the benefits of the oil-sands and conventional oil production.

June 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Greg Weston, like many people, seems to be missing the point

Just read this commentary by Greg Weston which points out that Stephane Dion’s carbon shift plan would cause significant increases in electricity bills for families outside of Quebec (though presumably not very significant increases in BC where large amounts of the electricity is provided through hydro, like Quebec).  Weston is probably right that electricity bills will rise significantly under Dion’s proposal, but this is the point of the Green Shift.  Charge people more for things that pollute while giving them a break on things that we want to encourage, like income.  I find it odd that Weston, and many others, point out a rise in energy costs under the plan as a huge negative.  That is the plan, that is how it is intended to work.  If people want to avoid paying such high electricity bills, or home heating bills, they can take steps to reduce their electricity consumption and better insulate and heat their homes.

The point of the Green Shift is to encourage people to change their energy consumption patterns.  We want energy costs to rise so that people will consume less, or consume better (fuel efficient furnaces, energy smart appliances, better home insulation, etc.).  I wish that commentators like Greg Weston would point out that Canadians can avoid the harshest effects of the Green Shift by changing their energy consumption.

June 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A weekend of boxing

For the first time in a couple of months I watched a significant number of boxing matches over the weekend.  I was excited to see Chris Arreola and Chazz Witherspoon fight, two young, undefeated American heavyweights. I have seen Arreola fight a few times and I really like his style.  He comes right at you, constant pressure, with good power, and a solid chin.  I think that Witherspoon could be a good fighter, but he lacks the power to back a guy like Arreola off.  Anyone with a strong chin, and good power can walk right through guys like Witherspoon and that is just what Arreola did.

There is some controversy surrounding the end to the fight. Witherspoon was disqualified when his corner stepped into the ring before the official end of round 3.  Witherspoon was knocked down with about 5 seconds to go in round 3, he beat the count and stood on very weak legs. Referee Randy Phillips did not seem to be aware that time had expired in the round.  Phillips should have quickly declared the round over, and then Witherspoon’s corner could have entered the ring and helped Witherspoon to his corner.  I have no problem with the stoppage, but it is unfortunate that the result is a DQ win for Arreola and not a TKO.   Witherspoon’s corner should count their blessings and be happy that Chazz did not go out for the 4th round where he almost certainly would have gotten clocked a couple of more times and then the fight would have been over.  I am always amused with boxers and their handlers who complain about stoppages when they probably just got a huge break.  It is sad to see a fight go on to long and watch one guy get his head totally beat in.  Once it is clear that a guy is going to lose the fight it is the right thing for the referee, doctor, or the corner to stop the fight.

Another exciting fight was the Arthur Abraham vs Edison Miranda rematch.  I am not sure if Abraham’s convincing knockout win proves that he is a good fighter, or whether it just proves that Miranda is not a world class type of fighter.  Miranda lost convincingly to both Pavlik and Abraham, proving that he cannot match up to top notch competition.  I think that Pavlik has proven himself to be an exceptional fighter by defeating Jermain Taylor twice.  Abraham is going to have to beat someone of Taylor’s pedigree in order to be considered an elite fighter in my view.

The last fight that I watched was the Amir Khan vs Michael Gomez slugfest from the UK.  Khan has quickly been moving up the lightweight ranks.  The fight with Gomez was fast paced and really exciting.  Gomez and Khan were both down early in the fight.  I think that Gomez is the type of fighter that could probably get up after almost any punch and continue fighting, but that just means that he takes an unneccessary beating.  Khan went down from a hard left hook but never looked like he was truly in danger of losing the fight, just that he had to weather a couple of difficult rounds.  I loved Khan’s speed, he looked great in the ring, and adapted well to Gomez’s constant pressure.  I look forward to seeing Amir Khan face some of the big names in the lightweight division.

June 23, 2008 Posted by | Sports | , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome back Cito

Was very happy today to read that the Blue Jays have finally decided to do something serious about their quickly fading season and fire John Gibbons.  It is not too late to salvage the season, but the Jays need to start to win now and put together a strong winning streak.  Even if the Jays continue to struggle, hopefully Gaston can get some better play out of most players so that some of them might have some trade value before the July 31st trade deadline.

Cito Gaston is a hero to many Blue Jays fans, myself included.  I was just a boy when the Jays won their two World Series titles so my view of Cito Gaston is clouded by youth and inexperience.  I have to remind myself that Gaston did do a great job with a very talented team, but he also presided over an amazing fall from grace for the Blue Jays.  Teams in the mid-90s were pretty terrible.  Regardless, Gaston has the most wins of any manager in Jays history.  His status on this ball club should guarantee instant respect from his players.

The only member of the coaching squad that did not lose their job today was Brad Arnsberg, and rightly so given how good the Jays pitching has been this year.  It is nice to see that the entire coaching staff has been overhauled.  Most of the replacements are guys who used to coach with the Jays during Cito Gaston’s time.  The coaching changes might not be able to get this Jays team motivated, but at least now JP Ricciardi can say that he is doing everything he can to win.

Praise be to Cito, may he once again lead the Blue Jays to the promised land.

June 20, 2008 Posted by | Sports | , , | Leave a comment

Liberal Green Shift, or carbon tax, or whatever you want to call it

You know you are a political junky when you are excited to wake up and begin reading about a new policy being proposed by one of the opposition parties. The Liberal plan might eventually get implemented, but the odds of it happening any time soon are in my view very slim. To implement the entire plan they would almost certainly have to win a majority government in the next election. The Liberals are going to be hard pressed to eek out even a minority victory next election, yet alone a majority victory. Regardless of whether or not the Liberals win the next election, and implement all or part of their Green Shift plan, it is at the very least a good thing that politicians, and hopefully Canadian citizens, will be talking about the pros and cons of a carbon tax. Discussion on the environment (hopefully leading to action) is a good thing for all Canadians.

I have read the Liberal Green Shift Handbook in its entirety. They repeat themselves often throughout the handbook (it could, and should be, much shorter). I do feel that it does an adequate job of explaining what the Green Shift is all about. Much has already been made about their claim that the plan is revenue neutral. Andrew Coyne seems particularly cheesed that they call the plan revenue neutral, when in fact what it does is create substantial tax cuts that amount for about 2/3rds of the new revenue generated, and about a 1/3rd of the new revenue is redistributed through tax credit programs (which can be viewed as spending programs delivered through the tax system). Regardless of whether you want to use the term revenue neutral, the Green Shift does create significant personal income tax cuts, corporate tax cuts, small business tax cuts, and it helps low income Canadians, family with children, and Canadians living in rural and northern areas.

For anyone who is relying on Andrew Coyne’s analysis for their refusal to support the Green Shift idea, they should focus on his conclusion to the plan:

“Conclusion: Lots of Green. Not much Shift. It’s better than nothing, but it’s still very much half a loaf, and a real missed opportunity.”

The Green Shift is certainly not the best plan that could have been created, environmentally, economically, or politically, but as Andrew Coyne grudgingly admits, it is better than nothing. I prefer the imperfect Green Shift plan to the do little to nothing, and do it very slowly approach that is being advocated by the Conservatives.

Coyne also pounces on the mention of a possible carbon tariff in the Green Shift proposal. What Dion said about this on Politics with Don Newman, was that Canada runs the risk of facing trade barriers with California and Europe if we fail to price carbon. Dion is not advocating that we implement a carbon tariff, but is saying that by pricing carbon we avoid possible carbon tariffs from other countries, and at the same time if other countries move towards a carbon tariff then Canada can be a part of the discussion and could benefit from any carbon tariff plan worked out by countries that are pricing carbon. Dion is not advocating carbon tariff protectionism, but is saying that by pricing carbon, Canada will be on the right side of the debate, and the right side of carbon tariff discussions if they arise in places like Europe and California.

Much is also being made of the Liberals going with a carbon tax, rather than a cap and trade system. Dion is not opposed to a cap and trade system, such a system may even be part of a Liberal environmental plan. The Green Shift is not the entire Liberal environmental plan, but is is the centre piece. The Liberals favoured a carbon tax now because it can be implemented quickly and cheaply. A cap and trade system takes a lot of time and money to establish, as well as significant cooperation between Canadian jurisdictions as well as other countries. I think that Canada will eventually participate in a cap and trade system that includes most if not all of the United States (BC, Ontario, and Quebec are all going to a cap and trade system). Commentators, and ordinary Canadian citizens have to remember that the Green Shift is the centre piece of the Liberal environmental platform, but it is not the entire platform. Things like cap and trade, and investment in green technologies is also going to take place, but a carbon tax can be implemented tomorrow, and should have immediate impact on Canada’s green house gas emissions.

I would encourage everyone to have a look at the Green Shift Handbook. Skim it at least, or read the whole thing if you really want to know what the Liberals are proposing. After informing yourself of the actual proposals then go on to read the many commentaries and criticisms that are out there. The Handbook can be found here.

June 19, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , | Leave a comment

The Green Shift is simple, very simple

I have been hearing on TV, and reading on-line a variety of people saying that the Green Shift is complicated and is difficult to explain to Canadians.  I do not think that the Green Shift plan could be any more simple.  Canadians are going to have to pay higher taxes on energy that has high carbon dioxide emissions, and they are going to get tax cuts on their income taxes.  Tax emissions, reward things like earning.  If you want to do well under the Green Shift system simply consume less energy.  It is absolutely necessary to being punishing people, and businesses for using massive amounts of energy, and to reward people for reducing their energy consumption.

Michael Ignatieff was quoted as saying he can easily sell this plan to Canadians; tax what you burn, not what you earn.  It is really that simple, if you want it to be.

June 19, 2008 Posted by | Politics | | 2 Comments

Since when has opposing human rights become so popular

There has been a great deal of discussion going on in Canadian political blogs for months now about the Mark Steyn-Maclean’s versus the Canadian Islamic Congress.  I just finished reading this article on RealClearPolitics.  I find it interesting that commentators from the United States have taken such an interest in the BC Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.  The tone of most of the things that I have read so far seems to be that Americans think that free speech includes the right to promote hatred against identifiable groups, a view that I hope most Canadians disagree with.

I should state that I strongly support free speech.  I think that you should be able to say pretty much whatever you like, short of encouraging people to harm or kill others.  I would rather hear someone’s hate loudly and clearly then have them keep their hatred secret and festering.  Once hate is out in the open it can be challenged, and hopefully changed.  What upsets me about the Steyn versus the Canadian Islamic Congress debate is how many people think that we should not have Human Rights Commissions, or at least that they should not hear any cases related to issues of freedom of expression.

I think that the BC and Canadian Human Rights Commissions play very important roles in regulating what Canadians can do and say regarding vulnerable minority groups (and very importantly ensuring that women’s rights are respected, I say this separately as women are not a minority group, but they clearly are not treated equally to men). What is particularly odd to me is that so many people think we need to get rid of the BC and Canadian Human Rights Commissions simply for holding hearings into the complaints launched by the Canadian Islamic Congress. There have been no decisions made yet.  The BC tribunal might simply dismiss the complaints against Mark Steyn and Macleans magazine. I think that the correct thing would be to dismiss the complaints, but if they are not dismissed then the matter can be appealed to the BC Supreme Court, where there will be a more thorough analysis done, and hopefully then the correct decision would be made.

What this case does, and I am glad it is doing, is bring the issue of Islamophobia to the attention of the public. I think that Islamophobia is getting out of control in Canada.  I do not think that Mark Steyn made Islamophobic comments in the Macleans excerpt from his book.  I think that the Canadian Islamic Congress made a mistake in taking the issue to human rights tribunals rather than trying to present their own case, and their own evidence, and let the battle happen out in the market place of ideas.

For now, everyone should calm down a bit and wait and see what the BC Human Rights Commission decides and then worry about whether or not freedom of expression is truly being stifled in Canada.

June 19, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , | Leave a comment

Dion and the Liberals have a lot of explaining to do, and I am going to try to help

I just read this article about what is expected to be part of the federal Liberals’ carbon tax shift proposal.  The Liberal proposal seems to be shaping up to be a pretty strong one in my view.  This article highlights that the Liberals plan to cut 2.5% off of the lowest income tax bracket, and 1% off of the two middle brackets, but nothing off of the highest bracket.  What the article fails to do, and what almost every reporter fails to do, is highlight that a cut to the lowest income tax bracket helps all Canadians.  Even if you make $200,000 per yer, which would put you in the highest income tax bracket of 29%, you do not pay 29% of $200,000.  You only pay the 29% rate on your income above $123,184.  The following helps to illustrate my point

  • 15% on the first $37,885 of taxable income, +
  • 22% on the next $37,884 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income between $37,885 and $75,769), +
  • 26% on the next $47,415 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income between $75,769 and $123,184), +
  • 29% of taxable income over $123,184
A cut to the lowest income tax rate helps all Canadians, from those making very little, to those making a great deal.  It makes more sense to cut the lowest income tax rate as it has the biggest impact on those most in need of extra dollars in their pocket, while at the same time helping people who make a lot of money.  The media will rarely highlight this point, and the Conservatives will certainly be quick to point out that middle-income Canadians will not be getting the biggest income tax break under the Liberal proposal.  The Liberals will  have to be continually pointing out what I have just attempted to do, which is that a cut to the lowest income tax bracket helps all Canadians, rich and poor.

June 18, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , | Leave a comment

BC NDP is way offside on the carbon tax issue

I just read this article about the Axe The Gas Tax campaign being launched by Carole James and the BC NDP. Essentially Carole James and her caucus want to delay the implementation of BC’s new carbon tax so that the matter can be further debated in the fall session of the legislature. The NDP wants the focus of any carbon plan to be on a cap and trade system that targets big emitters. Carole James and the NDP are advocating a strategy that is more of the same, more consultation, more debate, and no action. Something needs to be done now, and a carbon tax is a great place to start.

The NDP should be able to outflank the BC Liberals on the environment file, but by opposing the carbon tax they are digging themselves into a big environmental hole. Sure the carbon tax will cause an increase in already high gasoline and natural gas prices, but putting a price on carbon for everyone will eventually lead to people changing their behaviour. If as a consumer you do not want to pay the carbon tax, or pay less of it, then you just need to consume less energy. The carbon tax impacts consumers, and business, it is necessary to change the behaviour of society in general. The NDP should have supported the carbon tax, and if they wanted to, argue that the BC Liberals need to do more to address climate change.

The BC NDP’s opposition to the Liberal’s green initiatives may win them some rural votes, but it is going to hurt them in many urban areas. A carbon tax is necessary if we want to make immediate impacts on green house gas emissions. The BC Liberals are not just introducing a carbon tax and calling it a day, there is a plan for a cap and trade system as well, two initiatives that are necessary to immediately combat the rise in GHG emissions.

The BC carbon tax is not a tax grab. The $100 carbon tax offset checks are going to offset most of the new tax revenue (I think that the rebate checks are a terrible idea, income tax cuts would be better). BC is finally getting on the right path to reducing GHG emissions, and the BC NDP is working against what is positive change for the environment. The BC NDP is way down in the polls lately, not something I would ordinarily be happy about, but if it takes a Liberal victory to keep BC moving towards positive GHG reduction plans then I will welcome a BC Liberal victory. The BC NDP has a little less than a year to change its misguided opposition to the carbon tax.

June 17, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , | Leave a comment