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MORGANTE: O’Toole should back nuclear energy, not carbon taxes

“Canada is already making great strides in developing nuclear energy, which is precisely why we don’t need more government meddling in energy policy in the form of a carbon tax to help the environment.”

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At the heart of public policy formation in Canada is the struggle of gardeners vs. designers. In his 2020 book of the same name, economist Brian Lee Crowley describes the hubris of the ‘designers,’ who believe they have sufficient knowledge to impose their will on others. ‘Gardeners,’ by contrast, respect the great works of those who came before them and work to sustain and incrementally improve what already exists. 

This is the conceptual divide between the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party – or at least it used to be. These days it can be hard to differentiate between the two, especially since the Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole released a paternalistic social engineering scheme that may well be worse than the Liberal Party’s carbon tax

O’Toole’s carbon “pricing mechanism” – read: tax – promises to be cheaper than the Liberal plan, starting at $20/metric-tonne, and increasing to $50/mt, but under his plan Canadians would be forced to spend their rebate on O’Toole approved green products, unlike the Liberal plan where citizens are free to spend their rebate as they see fit. Importantly, it may be difficult to trust O’Toole to keep his carbon tax capped at $50/mt after he already broke his promise to repeal (and not replace) the carbon tax, and is committed to meeting the US Paris Climate Accord’s targets. 

O’Toole has both baffled and betrayed his base by joining the climate crusade. What rankles the base even more is the likelihood that the carbon tax will not actually reduce GHG emissions. Kenneth Green, a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, explains because demand for high carbon goods is inelastic, an increase in price does not result in a significant change in demand for the goods, so people will likely continue to consume GHG at similar levels as before despite the imposition of a tax.

Informed readers already know Canada contributes less than 1.5% of global greenhouse-gas emissions. Its annual emissions are equivalent to that of China’s for one month, so one can hardly see Canada having a meaningful impact, no matter how much we tax ourselves for it. 

The frustration is palpable: O’Toole has thrown fiscal austerity to the wayside to chase lofty but unattainable climate goals.  Bjørn Lomborg, political scientist, and author, has estimated striving to achieve the Paris climate goals will cost up to $2 trillion a year globally yet have little effect on slowing climate change. Despite this fact, O’Toole has pledged the Conservative’s climate plan will meet the goals of net-zero emissions by 2050, faster than the Liberals. 

Legislating a net-zero emissions target is grandstanding. Canada has failed to reach its 2020 target. To meet the Paris goals, the carbon tax would need to exceed $200/mt. Can O’Toole be trusted not to increase the tax beyond $50/mt at this point? 

O’Toole’s ill-timed announcement stands in stark contrast to what Canadians are prioritizing in the pandemic recovery period. A poll conducted by the federal government in the summer of 2020 showed that only 2.5% of respondents thought climate change was the foremost issue to address vs. 56% concerned about COVID-19, health, and the economy. 

O’Toole is caught between a rock and a hard place. John Manley, co-chair of the C.D Howe Institute Fiscal and Working Group, pointed out forming a government without support in the big urban areas outside the Prairies is a well-nigh impossible task. Since the major urban areas are very much on board with the fight against climate change, Conservatives must take actionable measures to appease them. 

Conservatives have allowed themselves to be painted into a corner; instead of trying to sell a different brand of dishonesty than Trudeau’s, perhaps the way out of check for O’Toole could be something almost never done by a politician: tell the truth. And the truth is no amount of wind turbines, solar panels or carbon taxes will get us to the promised land. 

We have to address the elephant in the room — nuclear is the only way we can address environmental concerns and be economically prudent. Ironically, O’Toole is already a proponent of nuclear power, so he doesn’t need to backtrack on any pledges.

Unlike O’Toole’s carbon tax – which has alienated his base, led to plummeting approval ratings, and failed to garner any new supporters – nuclear is a win for everyone. Unlike renewables, such as wind, nuclear is efficient, reliable, and relatively cheap. The economy will benefit from affordable prices, the federal budget will benefit from money not being squandered, while rational environmentalists should be thrilled with the low land use and lack of carbon emission.

Canada is already making great strides in developing nuclear energy, which is precisely why we don’t need more government meddling in energy policy in the form of a carbon tax to help the environment. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney recently joined Ontario, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan in signing an agreement supporting the development of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs). SMRs, smaller than traditional nuclear power plants, are more affordable to build, scalable and can compete with other low-carbon forms of energy. The global market for SMRs is projected to be $400 billion to $600 billion, and securing a share would be a much-needed boon for Canada’s economy in the post-pandemic economic recovery phase. 

Canada is the world’s second-largest uranium producer. Embracing nuclear allows us to further capitalize on our natural energy source endowment. Rather than engage in the uphill battle of imposing an inefficient and costly carbon tax, shouldn’t we take the path of least resistance and continue to nurture the investments that have already been made into nuclear energy?

Canada has much to learn from the case of France vs. Germany. French electricity costs are about half that of German prices, and France produces one-tenth of the carbon emissions. This disparity exists because France depends on nuclear for approximately 75% of its electricity, while Germany has subsidized expensive and unreliable solar and wind. This has increased the cost of electricity for households by 50%, as shown in a study on the costs of decarbonization, by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Genuine, permanent advancements are rarely a result of grandiose ‘designer’ government plans. Economic advancement comes incrementally, even quietly, by the intelligent development and implementation of technological innovations. Like gardening. 

Nuclear energy is not new, but the technology has slowly and surely been evolving. O’Toole would be wise to scrap his carbon tax plan and double down on nuclear instead.

Caitlin Rose Morgante is a Columnist for the Western Standard

Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Not so quick with allegations of hate crimes

It wasn’t a fair fight, but a police investigation determined it was also not a hate crime.

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On the surface, a gang of white boys piling on one black boy sure looked like it could be a hate crime.

As it turns out, there was more to the story regarding the April 16 attack in an Edmonton schoolyard.

It wasn’t a fair fight, but a police investigation determined it was also not a hate crime.

A video of the incident, during which the 14-year-old was swarmed and beaten is painful to watch.  It made local news and the “racist” incident was featured on the CBC The National.

That seven boys, all aged 14 but for one 12-year-old, attacked one boy is profoundly disturbing. Whoever stood back to video this is just as guilty as his bully buddies who kicked, punched and put the victim in a chokehold. 

Predictably, some swiftly concluded this attack was purely driven by racial hatred. The facts be damned.

They didn’t talk to the boys involved. 

But police did.

The hate crimes unit concluded this incident didn’t meet the Criminal Code criteria for a hate crime.

“There is still not sufficient evidence that this event was motivated by hate bias or prejudice toward the complainant’s race,” said Edmonton Police Service chief Dale McFee. “As such, it does not currently meet the Criminal Code threshold for a hate-motivated crime.”

During the melee one of the boys yelled out the nasty N-word. McFee rightfully acknowledged this as “highly inappropriate” but not sufficient to meet hate crime standards.

Police discovered the boys had a troubled history but didn’t elaborate.

“Our investigation currently shows this began as a consensual schoolyard fight and was part of an ongoing dispute between a group of male youths, that reportedly started last year,” said McFee.

Admittedly, McFee’s choice of the word consensual is cringeworthy considering that the victim was grossly outnumbered. McFee opened himself up to criticism and is obliged to explain why police arrived at this conclusion.

Police everywhere are working under a microscope, constantly being accused of discriminating against minorities. With budgets being slashed and calls to defund them, they can’t afford to be careless or callous. 

After hearing the results of the investigation, one anti-racism activist with A Fight For Equality insisted it was a hate crime and said charges should be laid against the boys. Essentially, this is a demand for police to ignore the Criminal Code. 

Canada cannot ever go down that slippery slope.

Other activists accused police of not getting the zero-tolerance for hate crimes message across.

What are they doing as activists to bring people with all skin colours together and repair relations in communities? How are they helping to teach their children tolerance and that beating up anyone is unacceptable? 

Knee-jerk reactions fuel division, create unwarranted fear and anger, and are grossly unfair to victims and perpetrators. To wrongly insist this was hate crime doesn’t help these boys who should be the priority. It ignores the root of why this happened and interferes with determining appropriate punishment. A problem, not honestly addressed, doesn’t get fixed.

The reaction to this incident is symptomatic of a growing Canada-wide problem.

McFee dared to say race wasn’t a factor. This is something Canadians are increasingly afraid to say out loud, even when true.

These days, people who denounce or even question accusations of race-based hate are – sometimes viciously – targeted as racist. That’s a bad thing to be. False accusations can destroy reputations. 

Race baiters, seeking to support agendas or personal biases, skillfully use this fear tactic to silence anyone who challenges potentially unfounded claims. 

We must cautiously discern between those who earnestly want unity and seek to protect victims of hate and those seeking to serve their own interests.

Yes, there are racists in Canada. 

No, Canada’s not a systematically racist country.

When Canadians learn someone has been the victim of a hate crime it tears at their hearts. They generously support activist groups who fundraise off of every incident. Ironic isn’t it? 

Moving forward, we must tread carefully on this issue of alleged systematic racism some insist permeates Canada.

Meanwhile, the definition of hate-crime victims sometimes gets confusing.

If seven black boys had attacked one white boy would anyone call it a hate crime? Or would it have been recognized for what it was? 

In today’s climate that’s an uncomfortable, but fair, question. 

Linda Slobodian is the Manitoba Political Columnist for the Western Standard.

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HARDING: Maverick is poised to make gains as Conservatives turn their back on the West

“Until recently, the party said it will run candidates solely in ridings where a “split” of the vote wouldn’t elect a Liberal or New Democrat. Since O’Toole’s carbon tax flip-flop, interim party leader Jay Hill has hinted he may drop this policy and run in tighter races, seeing little difference between the Tories and Liberals on western issues.”

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In the coming federal election, whenever it may be, the Conservative Party is positioning itself to lose a significant portion of its western and rural base to the upstart Maverick Party. It’s not hard to see why. 

The policies and person of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fanned the flames of western discontent, and even independence in some quarters. Outdoing all his predecessors since Brian Mulroney, federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has taken the west for granted. In a bid to win more votes in Toronto and Quebec, he has embraced a huge carbon tax with enthusiasm. It could just prove to be the most hated policy on the prairies.

Erin O’Toole’s carbon tax Petro Points plan turned some party faithful into real doubters, or downright hostile ones. Even the phrase “carbon Petro Points plan,” plainly demonstrates the mixture of a bad idea made worse by a gimmicky joke. Even Trudeau’s tax-and-give-it-back-to-you premise – however punishing – is still better than the Tory proposal. O’Toole wants to tax you, but deny he’s taxing you and leave you no recourse to recover your seized money except to make “green” government-approved expenditures. The anti-oil movement meets the nanny state, with a vengeance.

And O’Toole will actually campaign on the idea. The only previous time a major federal opposition leader openly campaigned on a carbon tax was the Stephane Dion Liberals of 2008. They had the most dismal showing in Liberal history to that date, thanks in part to Conservative attack ads that said, “Stephane Dion is not a leader,” and Harper’s comments that his carbon tax was “a tax on everything” that will “screw everybody.” The same could be said of Erin O’Toole and his carbon tax. Obviously, he must have some savvy, having won the Conservative leadership, but his about-face on the carbon tax has turned his reception from “meh” to “blech.”

A recent encounter brought home the seriousness of O’ Toole’s miscalculation for me. At the Chris Sky rally in Regina, I met a man from the Assiniboia Sask. area who told me, “A lot of people are saying they’re not voting Conservative anymore. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

If you don’t know Assiniboia, it’s got about 2,400 people and the closest place with more people, Moose Jaw, is an hour’s drive away. It’s farming and ranching all the way, though the coal-fired power plant in nearby Coronach is a big employer. 

In rural Saskatchewan, the two things heard most often in the 2019 election were: “The election is over as soon as it hits the Manitoba border” and “If Trudeau gets in again, I’m all for Western independence.”

The Maverick Party is best positioned to capitalize on that sentiment. Until recently, the party said it will run candidates solely in ridings where a “split” of the vote wouldn’t elect a Liberal or New Democrat. Since O’Toole’s carbon tax flip-flop, interim party leader Jay Hill has hinted he may drop this policy and run in tighter races, seeing little difference between the Tories and Liberals on western issues.

PPC leader Maxime Bernier gets it on many of the big western issues, but the loss of his own Quebec seat in the last election left a vacuum in the west for discontented conservatives. With no major party capable of electing MPs to champion western issues, Maverick is poised to fill that vacuum.

The late Joseph Garcea, a University of Saskatchewan political science professor who died in November, shared an important insight on the last provincial election. He said the Saskatchewan NDP had many little policy ideas, but no big idea to rally support. Similarly, the PPC has many little ideas. It’s hard to convince people to vote for change with little ideas. The Maverick Party has a big – and some would say radical idea: an independent west – whether within confederation or apart from it.

People make decisions emotionally, then justify them rationally. The Maverick Party will harness both the anger and grievance in western alienation and the hope found in western independence. The Maverick platform adds substance to the sentiment.

As a fresh party with rookie campaign teams, I’d be surprised if Maverick won any seats. However, they stand a good shot of landing plenty of second place finishes. That might be enough to make O’ Toole remember the West. If the Mavericks can do that, it will be accomplishment enough.

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Political Columnist for the Western Standard

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MORGAN: I was a part of Kenney base. No longer

“I know who Kenney’s base was. The base hasn’t changed. Jason Kenney has.”

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I was a part of Jason Kenney’s base.

Like most Albertans after 2015, I was mortified that we had managed to give the NDP a majority government due to our incessant political infighting and corruption in conservative ranks. I was eager and searching for a way to free ourselves from a provincial government that was farther to the left than Ottawa’s Liberals. I was ready to embrace pragmatism and compromise on the partisan front to ensure that Rachel Notley was a single-term premier, or as Jason Kenney put it, “one and done.”

Jason Kenney entered the Alberta political scene and offered us a plan. He showed us a path to conservative unity and he offered to lead us there. I was thrilled.

I have always respected and admired Jason Kenney. As a fiscal watchdog with the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation, Kenney mercilessly held Ralph Klein’s feet to the fire in the 1990s on issues of spending and corporate welfare. As a Reform Party MP, Kenney took the Chretien Liberals to task on spending and corruption. Kenney deserves some of the credit for the balanced budgets that both Klein and Chretien eventually presented. It takes steady, reasonable pressure in order to get government leaders to take on tough tasks and Kenney was masterful at putting that pressure on.

As a cabinet minister in the Stephen Harper government, Jason Kenney was no less impressive. Immigration has always been a difficult file for conservative governments and as the Immigration and Citizenship Minister, Kenney made great inroads into relations with immigrant communities and was respected across the country. Kenney was no slouch in other ministerial portfolios as well and it has been long established that his parliamentary work ethic is second to none.

Because of that impressive political resume, I was confident that Kenney was the man who would bring Alberta back into being a province known for good, no-nonsense conservative governance.

I supported Kenney’s efforts to unite the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative Parties. I encouraged people to buy memberships in both parties and to vote to merge. I supported Kenney in his multiple leadership races and I supported the UCP in the 2019 Alberta election.

I know who Kenney’s base was. The base hasn’t changed. Jason Kenney has.

The Western Standard reported in an exclusive story, Premier Kenney said, in reference to Albertans who attended a rodeo south of Bowden last week, “If they are our base, I want a new base.”

I didn’t expect Premier Kenney to endorse or support the rodeo. Indeed, it was intentionally modelled to be in defiance of provincial regulations. Kenney clearly realized that the attendees of the rodeo did represent a large part of his base, and while that doesn’t obligate him to support them, it does obligate him to respect them. Kenney instead chose to insult them in public, and show contempt for them in private.

We were your base Premier Kenney, but we aren’t any longer. As for your new base, I am not sure where you expect them to come from. Rest assured, you will not be winning any love from NDP supporters no matter how much you spend or suppress individual rights.

Jason Kenney has turned into a terrible disappointment as Alberta’s premier and it is well reflected in his current support numbers. Kenney’s support among his base was slipping well before the pandemic struck. In this year of crisis however, Kenney’s support has truly evaporated. Kenney has tried to be everything to everybody, and ended up being nothing to anybody. It is a fate that befell Jim Prentice before him.

The conservative base hasn’t left Alberta. They have simply left Jason Kenney and it appears that he is just fine with that.

The base will not go back to Jason Kenney after having been abandoned and taken for granted by him though and he can’t win the next election without them.

The base will find a new home. It may be through replacing Jason Kenney within the UCP, or through a new partisan vehicle. That base may dominate in the next provincial election or we may end up with another NDP government. Time will tell.

Cory Morgan is the Alberta Political Columnist for the Western Standard and the Host of the Cory Morgan Show



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