Monday, August 24, 2009

W Minus 40: A Golden / Green Moment for us to Seize!

(originally posted at

Some interesting news from one of my least-favourite polling companies, Harris-Decima (least favourite only because Green Party numbers tend to be lower in their polls, not necessarily because I have any concerns with the nature of their polling). Sunday’s Globe and Mail reports that Canadians are not in a mood to have environmental issues trumped by the need to prop up our economy. I find this interesting, although not particularly surprising, as it has seemed to me that the mood of Canadians has changed in the past couple of years when it comes to the environment. Certainly, there has been a growing sophistication and understanding that we need to start taking action to address the growing climate crisis.

The other interesting news out of Harris-Decima are results from a poll released August 20, 2009, in which it is reported that a majority of Canadians want to see Elizabeth May become a Member of Parliament, and want to see the Green Party play a more important role in Canadian politics. This poll in particular is really exciting to me, although again I can’t say that I’m surprised with its outcome. I’m excited, though, that the topic itself was interesting enough for Harris-Decima to look into (even if it was during the dog-days of August).

I’ve seen Elizabeth May’s name mentioned in the media a little bit more lately, which has largely been a good thing. Even today’s story in the Globe and Mail about Elizabeth’s eyeing a so-called "winnable" seat in B.C. emphasized some of the positive aspects of our Party, including the grass-roots democratic notion that even the Leader can be challenged in a local riding for the candidacy. The more these sorts of stories are shared with Canadians, the better our Party will look to those concerned about the state of our democracy. Indeed, coverage of this sort, supported by polls, will only lend legitimacy to our Party during the next election, and to Elizabeth May’s call to be included in the televised Leader’s debate. While I do not agree with Stuart Hertzog's decision to campaign for the candidacy in SGI at this time, I respect that in our Party, he has every right to do so.

In the run-up to Copenhagen, we will start to see more media coverage with environmental messages. As candidates become nominated throughout Canada, Greens have an opportunity to share messaging about the environment and the economy with local media who are interested in discussing how environmental issues might play out in our local communities. Let’s make a concerted effort to introduce our local candidates to local media, and offer the local media our own expertise should the need for a quote, comment, or op-ed piece arise.

Keep in mind that the International Day of Climate Action is taking place on October 24, 2009 (a Saturday). This might be another date to mark on calendars, to be used to engage local media and introduce candidates to the electorate (if we’re not already in an election), or to reinforce Green Party messages (should we be in the midst of an election campaign).

As the dog-days of summer are wearing thin, and people’s minds begin to slowly turn to the serious issues facing our nation, Greens might yet come out of this summer re-invigorated. Let’s not lose site, though, of ensuring that all EDA’s have candidates selected to run in the next election. And let’s not forget that the Campaign Committee has developed a plan which it needs to share with EDA’s and local candidates in an effort to kick-start the messaging which Greens will have to promulgate over the next 40 days (and nights).

This is our time. This is the Green Party’s chance to seize our opportunity, and to run with it. Let’s not waste this golden/green moment.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

W Minus 53: Time for a Little Damage Control

(originally posted at

So, the Vancouver Sun is reporting that Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has formally made the decision to run in Saanich-Gulf Islands in the next election (thanks go to Mark Kersten for bringing this story to my attention here in Central Ontario...I don't typically read the Vancouver Sun, living in Sudbury and all).

Interestingly, The Vancouver Sun also reports that Elizabeth was approached by Liberal Party President Alf Apps earlier this summer, to find out whether she'd be interested in joining Michael Ignatieff's Party. The Sun reports that Elizabeth declined, but indicated that she would happily serve as Environment Minister in a Liberal government.

Interesting. Not sure what that was all about. Perhaps a misquote. Perhaps just something tongue-in-cheek. Surely, Elizabeth, you weren't being serious? Perhaps there were a couple of qualifiers in there not reported by the Sun, such as you first being elected as a Green MP, and then, presuming a minority situation in Parliament, the Greens join a formal coalition with the Liberals.

Michael "Tar Sands" Ignatieff and his Liberal Party do not represent the Green values that our Party stands for. They will not take needed action on the environment. What we'll get from the Liberals is window-dressing at best. I'm not sure whose interests would be served should Elizabeth May accept the position of Environment Minister in Ignatieff's cabinent, particularly should Ignatieff win a majority.

Elizabeth, your first response to Alf Apps was the appropriate one: "Thanks but no thanks." No more really needed to be said about this, especially going into a campaign where you will be asking Greens from across Canada to help you get elected. Look, we really want to help you, so that you can be the Leader of the Green Party and a sitting MP in the House. I'm not sure that we'd feel the same way if the goal is to have you join Michael Ignatieff's cabinent.

The good news for the rest of us Green is that Ignatieff won't be looking to turn to our Party for a cabinent posting, given the number of long-serving Liberals likely to be returned to office in the next election. But I have to wonder what on Earth this sort of speculation achieves, other than to frustrate current members of the Party who really want to work towards getting someone elected? This blurring of Party lines between Red and Green does not appear to me to serve the strategic interests of our Party, and in the eyes of some would make our Leader look like a bit of an opportunist again (recall the discussion about her being appointed to the Senate in the Dion-Layton Coalition...which admittedly would have been a heck of a lot better than Mike Duffy, but I digress).

Now, I know that I'm liable to get called out by all sides for writing this post, given that I have been and remain a strong supporter of Elizabeth May. For me, though, the Party has always been paramount, and of course I am concerned when I hear about these sorts of mixed messages. I'm sorry to be so critical, especially since it's very likely that the Vancouver Sun simply did an edit of what was actually said by Elizabeth. Nonetheless, let's cut down this speculation.

Instead of "Elizabeth Chooses SGI", this story may very well be, "Elizabeth Wants to be Iggy's Environment Minister".

Let's have no more speculation about what might happen after the election, and instead let's focus on getting Greens elected.

This was a mis-step. Campaign Committee, it's time for damage control mode. Right now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

W-54: Time to Line Up and Shift into Gear. The Writ Drops in 54 Days.

(originally posted at

I started writing this blog as a response to a comment made by Daryl Vernon to a post from Matthew Day on another thread, but given that I seem to have meandered away from the topic of that thread, I’ve decided to post this as a new blog post of my own. To read Daryl’s original comment, please go here: "deserve it"

Daryl, I don’t think that Matthew was advocating for a "180 degree" change...I think that he was only pointing out that unless the GPC was ready to make that kind of radical change, targeting a Conservative stronghold would not achieve the result of having our Leader elected. I’m not going to offer an opinion on whether I agree with that assessment or not, as I’m still in the process of formulating it, but I wanted to point out that I don’t believe Matthew is calling for that king of change at this point, given the limited amount of time we have to make the change.

With regards to the GPC being poised on a cliff top, at risk of falling into the abyss should, in the coming election, we fail to elect anybody, I have this to offer. I believe that we are clearly at risk, and that, unless planning for the next election quickly shifts into high gear now, the damage will be irreversible. Indeed, I fear that fundamental damage was already done to our Party during the last election.

Consider for a moment what might happen in a fall election. Without any sitting MP’s, and after having failed at electing anyone just over a year ago, will the media consortium in charge of the Leader’s debate allow Elizabeth May to participate in a televised debate? I hope I’m wrong about this, but really, I can’t see it happening. The only thing we have going for us right now is that we’ve achieved over 2% of the popular vote, which takes us out of "fringe party" status in the eyes of some, but not many. With just over 6% of the popular vote in the last election after polling in the 10% range, does it remain a fair question for Canadians and our media to wonder if we’re a serious party or not?

If Elizabeth isn’t in the debates, look for our popular vote percentage to fall back to around the 5% mark. Why? Well, the media is already making this next election into a contest between only Harper and Ignatieff. With a new Liberal Leader, all eyes will be on Ignatieff, and the media will spend an incredible amount of time and energy in determining whether or not he’s up to the job. Harper, too, will command the media’s attention in a different way, with the media asking (and answering) the question, is it time for him to go? This clash between Conservatives and Liberals will be the theme of the election. All other stories will be just snippets in support of the main theme. Sure, the media might pretend it’s about the economy, or about EI, but in reality and in their coverage, it will be about Harper vs. Ignatieff.

None of the above, I should say, applies to Quebec, which has a completely different dynamic.
So, we’re in trouble, as is the NDP. The NDP, at least, is aware of this situation, and are trying to do something about it by floating the idea of changing their name, looking for ways to "renew" their Party in the eyes of the media, and maybe in the voter’s eyes too. Aside from dumping their Leader (which they will do after this election), how else will the NDP muscle their way onto the Harper/Ignatieff stage in the next election?

At least the NDP can count on continuing to elect MP’s in certain ridings, but look for their overall riding count to drop in the next election, as they are vulnerable to a resurgent Liberal Party in some of the new ridings they have claimed (in Northern Ontario, for example, look for the Liberals to take back many of the seats they lost here; the Liberals have already committed to holding their end of summer MP/Senate retreat here in Sudbury...coincidence? I think not. The Liberals will be targeting Sudbury and other Northern ridings for gain from the NDP...and the NDP will be doing all that they can to hold onto these beach-heads. It’s going to be a Red/Orange war on the ground here when the writ is dropped).

Without Elizabeth May in the debates, and without much in the way of national media coverage, and with diminishing local media coverage as a result of media-convergence, our voice is going to be a very difficult one to have heard by voters. Unless we have a coherent and focussed campaign, one in which our limited and quieted voices are all shouting the same easily-understood message, in the same key, we’re not going to have a chance. Co-ordination between the Leader’s campaign and all of the smaller campaigns, especially those in our top ridings, will be paramount.

If we go into the next election in the same way we went into the last one, we can expect similar results...but not the same. At least in the last election, the Green Party was perceived as somewhat new, untested, with a Leader that people wanted to know more about. And so the media devoted some coverage to our Party, and Elizabeth May’s name was shouted across the country when she was excluded from the debate.

Going into the next election, we will not have those advantages. The Green Party will be that party that failed in the last election. The media won’t bother wasting as much time with a failed Party out their on the fringes of common sense, especially when a more compelling narrative exists: Harper v. Ignatieff. As a result, voters will tune us out, especially if our messaging is off-key. If we spend too much time issuing press releases and discussing our Health Care policies, or our stance on Afghanistan, we will be in trouble, because frankly, we’re not going to grab much in the way of media attention on those issues.

We will need to stick to our core themes: 1) The Environment (especially with Copenhagen around the corner) 2) Democratic renewal (which has an off-shoot: electing our Leader to Parliament). We will need to continue to cultivate our core voters with the range of issues they will expect us to discuss: legalized marijuana, safe food and product labelling, peace, carbon tax, and nothing nuclear. But the more we drift in the media away from the those top two issues, the more diffuse our voice will be, and we’re already going to be challenged to receive coverage anyway.

Some may say that we can counter this loss of mainstream-media attention through alternative media, especially amongst younger voters. To only a very small degree would I agree. Mainstream media continues to dominate when it comes to shaping the attitudes of the electorate. If CTV and CBC say that this election is about Harper and Ignatieff, than that’s what it will be about, in the same way that they said that the last election was about "nothing", until part-way through when they declared it was about the economy.
So, what about falling off of that cliff?

Now, it’s true, with my assessment, I’m making some assumptions in my model here: I’m assuming that Elizabeth May is going to be shut out of the debates, and in the model I’m discussing, our popular vote percentage decreases for all of the reasons I’ve mentioned above. Where does that leave the Party?

Surely, our Leader will have to go, after failing in two elections to have even herself elected. So, she’ll be gone, and more than likely much of the infrastructure she’s put into place will also get the boot, so we’ll be into a bit of a rebuilding phase for a while. We’ll also see our revenues cut, with fewer votes generating money. And, likely we’ll be carrying debt, as we’ll have had to pour money into this election...because there isn’t any choice here.

With a new leader, whether or not she or he is dynamic to Greens, there’s very little chance that they’re going to have the national profile of our existing leader. No offence to anyone who is thinking about stepping up should this scenario play itself out, but I don’t think that there are other stars in our Party who had the kind of pre-Leadership media presence that Elizabeth May had when she became our leader. And without that kind of presence, where will the Party be?
In economic difficulty, on the decline with voters, with an untried leader no one has heard about...all the while the other Parties take bits and pieces of our ideas, and tell the media that they’re doing good work on the environment and other issues important to Canadians. Whether or not they are will be meaningless, only that they are seen to be doing good.

And, given that the next election will likely produce a minority government situation, we’ll have little time to regroup and regenerate before we’re into another election; maybe 2 years if we’re lucky. Better for us as a Party would be a majority Conservative government, which could truly screw up the country even further given four years to implement their own Agenda. Although I think most of us would cringe at that prospect.

Either way, we Greens face the prospect of withering on the vine. Already, our credibility has taken a big hit with the media, and with voters, if recent polls are to be believed. We haven’t used this time to find an issue or two which resonates with Canadian voters. Instead, we’ve been doing a lot of navel gazing. We pinned our hopes that the Democratic Renewal issue would bring us to the forefront, with E. May’s book and with STV in BC at the polls in May. It might have worked, had STV passed. That would have been our issue to own this summer in the media. Instead, there have been only passing blips about election reform. No resonance there.

Admittedly, any message from Greens would have been hard to find resonance with voters, given our failure to breakthrough into the big leagues in the last election. No MP’s really hurt our credibility and our image. If we do the same again, Greens, it’ll be all over except for the dying.
Right now, having squandered this past year to infighting when we should have been getting our message out and building our local infrastructure, it is absolutely critical that we pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and start the campaign. Right now.

But...we’re not quite ready yet, are we? Look, it’s no secret that we are expecting the writ to drop on Sunday, October 4th, after the Liberals and NDP have defeated the government on a September 28th confidence vote. We’ve heard about a Campaign Plan, and seen the priorities, but there haven’t been any details about how to get there. For example, we’ve heard that there will be more focussed messaging, but we’ve not seen what it will be, nor have many of us been tapped on the shoulder to provide input. We’ve heard that we’re going to have a slogan, but we’ve not seen it. We’ve been invited to donate money to help Elizabeth May get elected, but we still don’t know where she’s going to run. We’ve not heard anything about a media strategy. We’ve not seen any materials for candidates to assist them in answering questions from voters and local media. And it’s now the middle of August.

This time out, it’s imperative that our voices be as one. Our federal campaign clearly has to take the lead, and not just because their the ones with most of the resources. Electing our Leader is an identified priority, and I should add a priority which I clearly support. Elizabeth May is going to get the lion’s share of Green coverage in the next election. She’s the leader. She and her people have got to lead the charge here, and the other candidates around the country need to fall in line and speak with her, as one body politic.

And where are those candidates? Rules from the Campaign Committee came out in March of this year, and EDA’s were to have candidates in place by June. Whether or not we agreed with the rules, or with the specific timing (and we here in Sudbury agreed with neither), it is incumbent upon EDA’s to be prepared for an election. Yet we have only a hand-full of candidates in place! Why on earth have we allowed this to happen? Yes, we EDA’s might disagree with the way in which things were handled by the Federal Party here, but their goal was a sensible one: have candidates in place so that the summertime could be used to promote those candidates locally. Instead, we focussed on the disagreements.

And many believed, and continue to believe, that it doesn’t matter, that maybe this isn’t the time for our Party anyway, so we’ll show up and fight the good fight, but perhaps we’ll make it better if we change direction, get a new Leader, devote more money to staff resources to build EDA’s, and then maybe next time out we’ll do better, or the time after that.

Problem is, there won’t be a next time. Like it or not, our time is Now.

Look, I’m all for more resources to build EDA’s, and I think we need some renewal within the Party. I’m certainly unimpressed with a lot which has gone on in the past year, and I’m an advocate for changing that. But I also know that we either put aside our differences and fight the next election with the direction we’ve committed to, or it’s all over. Whether you’re like me and are unhappy with things, or whether you’re like others who are completely ticked-off with the direction of the Party elite, it doesn’t matter. We have to pull together, or this ship will sink.
I know others don’t share my assessment. Others believe that the Party is strong enough to survive another shut-out. Many of those others believe that we will at least increase our popular vote in this next election, even if we don’t elect anyone. Others believe that our popular vote will increase over time, as young voters (who tend to be supportive of Green policies) mature and start showing up at polling stations in greater numbers.

I don’t share that level of optimism, because a withering Party will be written off by the electorate. In a situation of decline, the centre will not hold, and things will break down, pieces will break off. Our good policies will be taken by the other Parties, looking for a strategic edge over each other (not primarily because they make sense). Our members will abandon us because we’re not achieving results. The media will ignore us, unless it’s to report on our in-fighting (but even that’s not a sure thing...look at the lack of national coverage the collapse of the Alberta Greens generated).

Whether you disagree with my assessment or not, Greens, I urge you to line up behind the National Campaign. If you don’t agree with me, and If I’m wrong, well, the worst outcome would be that by speaking with one voice, we’ll increase our chances of winning.

Campaign Committee: I hope you’re hearing the voices of dissatisfaction out here across Canada. You’ve got to get things together now. Right now. We on the ground need more out of you. Your silence is causing considerable concern. Just look at these discussions we’ve been having here. Multiply that by one hundred, for every electoral district association meeting where we scratch our heads and wonder aloud what direction we’ll be going in this fall.

Elizabeth May: I’m a fan of yours, and I have an incredible amount of respect for your intellect and your energy. Please, it’s time to make that hard choice. Choose a riding, and kick things into high gear. Ensure that our message will be focussed on our strengths. Understand that our voice is going to be limited in the upcoming election, an that we have to speak as one locally and nationally.

EDA’s: Get your candidates nominated. Start the ball rolling locally with letters to the editor, showing up at events, etc. Do all the good things that you know that you need to do, and ask for help when and where you need it. And not just from your Organizer. Call up the CEO of a neighbouring organization, or write to one of the bloggers here who seem to have an idea or two. Cross-communicate.

Greens: Show support to local candidates by showing up at events. Stay involved with local organizations that share our values. Get active in promoting an event in your area for World Environment Day on October 24th. The key people in your local Association are getting burnt out already, and an election hasn’t even been called yet. Step up and fill in a niche locally, even if it’s not with the EDA. Make connections in your community. Get involved with something that’s important.

It’s W-54 (54 days until the Writ is dropped). We have to gear up now, or the Party really will be over on E-Day.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Winners and Losers: Canadian Businesses, Carbon Pricing, Procurement and Conservative Game-Playing

(originally posted at

I was at the downtown farmer’s market this past Saturday, where my wife and I bought a Christmas present for my mother from a local merchant who makes her own jewellery. It was exciting, and not just because we can strike a hard-to-buy-for person from our Christmas list in August. It was exciting because in making our purchase, we were supporting a local business. Something to feel good about.

On Tuesday morning, after enjoying a long weekend of not thinking too much about the world outside of my own family, I read an article about this week’s Premiers Conference in the morning paper by Rick Smith of Environmental Defence: "Clean energy, not photo-op, should be premiers priority", Toronto Star, August 5 2009). Mr. Smith’s concerns quickly returned my thoughts to what’s going on in the larger world around me. Looked like it would be "one of those" weeks, I thought at the time. With Friday’s hindsight as my perspective today, looks like I was right.

Smith was writing about winners and losers as they relate to upcoming discussions about carbon pricing. By way of background, it seems to me that carbon pricing through the implementation of a North American cap and trade system is now all but inevitable, as President Obama has tasked Congress with building such a system. Even Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have been discussing it. And as Harper and Obama both want to be seen to be doing something in advance of Copenhagen, and possibly a Federal election, I think carbon pricing through cap and trade is going to happen.

Heck, even Sun Media pundit and climate change-denier Lorrie Goldstein thinks a cap and trade system is inevitable: "Cap and trade or charade?", Sudbury Star, July 13, 2009. So there’s got to be something there.

Both Rick Smith and Lorrie Goldstein are concerned about how the Obama cap and trade system is shaping up, as Canada is sure to join in, rather than build our own system. Concerns relate to the sorts of breaks that might be given to certain industries, specifically the coal and oil industries. The justification will be that both of these industries are hard at work developing "clean coal" and "clean oil" technologies, and just need a little more time before they will be able to fully join the cap and trade system. Arguments will be made that forcing coal and oil to come all the way in now would irreparably damage our economies.

So, the Obama-designed Harper-joined system will likely allow the heaviest polluting industries in North America to continue doing "business as usual" for a while longer yet.

The proposed U.S. system, though, calls for real reductions to greenhouse gas emissions by certain targets. The 2020 target is for a 17% reduction in emissions (from a 2005 base line). So, if the coal industry in the U.S. and the tar sands industry in Canada are to be given large exemptions from being forced to participate in the cap and trade system, how are we going to achieve these even very modest targets?

Looks like other industries are going to be tasked with making up the lion’s share of emission reductions. Those are the winners and losers Rick Smith identifies. The winners will be oil-rich Alberta and Saskatchewan (and Newfoundland to a lesser extent), and U.S. coal-producing States, at the expense of Canada’s manufacturing industry, of which a big chunk is located in Central Canada, specifically in the Greater Toronto Area.

To me, all of this looks to be a politically-motivated manoeuver to reward Conservative friends and punish Conservative foes. That’s what it has to be, because with such a woeful target it sure as heck doesn’t look like it’s going to accomplish anything much on the climate change file.
Now, the Conservatives have already written off Quebec ridings as those to woo in an upcoming election. The Greater Toronto Area, where those manufacturing jobs are located, has always been difficult ground for the Cons and Reform Party before them to make inroads in. In Ontario, the Cons have been successful with wooing rural voters, but the suburban and urban ridings remain largely the bastion of the Liberals and the NDP.

From his perspective, it makes political sense now for Harper to play to his own strengths, particularly since many of those in his camp have been griping about yanking their support because they perceive his $50 billion deficit as a betrayal of his Reform Party roots. If Western ultra-Cons were stay at home on E Day, there could be more than a few chinks in the blue-coloured coat of armour. So he needs to throw them a bone and exempt the oil industry from meaningful participation in the cap and trade system.

At the same time, Harper clearly needs to be perceived as taking action on climate change. Joining in with President Obama’s climate change initiative will give Harper a lot of positive press in the uncritical mainstream media. It’s just too bad that Obama’s plan looks like it’s going to be such a wash out, a big nothing, full of sound and fury but ultimately just a squeak; in short, what politicos like to call "spin".

Greens, you know there must be a problem with Obama’s plan when Saskatchewan Party Leader and Premier Brad Wall, an instrument of the oil interests if there ever was one, comes out in support of it! Wall has been on the record as a virulent opponent of a cap and trade system, claiming such a system will damage his province. Yet, in today’s Globe & Mail, Wall is reported as saying that since cap and trade seems inevitable, Obama’s plan isn’t that bad because it will put less onus on reducing greenhouse gases than even Stephen Harper’s own plan: (Brian Laghi, "Saskatchewan warms to Obama climate plan", Globe & Mail, August 7, 2009).

Wow. Stephen Harper is starting to look like a crusading tree-hugger alongside Michael Ignatieff and Barack Obama, at least in the eyes of Wall and Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach!

So, it looks like that there will be winners and losers in the coming years, as "action" is seen to be taken in reducing ghg emissions.

Here in Sudbury, we’re very familiar already with being on the losing end of the Conservative’s stick. As you may know, approximately 3,500 employees from Vale Inco are now into their second month of what is sure to be a lengthy strike. United Steelworkers Local 6500 has been expressing some very real concerns about their new employer, Brazillian-based Vale SA, which acquired Inco with the permission of the Canadian government in 2006. At that time, Vale entered into a secret agreement with the government; an agreement which a revolving door of Conservative Ministers keep telling us would lead to job creation and a better economic situation for Inco communities in Labrador, Greater Sudbury and Port Colborne.

Here in Sudbury, we’ve not really seen those results. Vale’s acquisition of Inco is turning out to be a bit of a disaster for our community, and not just because of the current strike. Sudbury’s once-vibrant mining supply sector, once touted in this community by economic developers as the cornerstone for an evolving "centre of excellence", has been devastated in the past year, losing over 1,500 jobs, many of which were held by well-paid mining professionals. Sudbury’s mining supply sector has been a leader in mining innovation and the development of sustainable mining practices. These jobs lost are the sort of jobs a community needs to thrive.

Sure, in part, job loss has been a result of the recent economic downturn and falling nickel prices. But, also in part, the mining supply sector has been a victim of Vale’s business practices. In today’s Sudbury Star, editor Brian MacLeod expresses concern that Vale Inco will increasingly shut local industries out of competitive bidding process as Vale "rationalizes" its service delivery by looking for ways of maximizing "global synergies". Given that Vale’s head office is in Brazil, and that Vale operates in 35 countries world-wide, it stands to reason that local mining suppliers will continue to be left behind in the name of "centralized procurement" (see "The new boss isn’t quite like the old boss", The Sudbury Star, August 7 2009)

USW Local 6500 would have us believe that Vale and the Conservatives sold out Inco communities, along with the rest of Canada. Canada’s natural resource sector is certainly no stranger to the international auction block, but if there was a deal made to protect Canada’s interests, as Industry Minister Tony Clement says there was, it doesn’t appear to have been much of a deal, given the situation here in Sudbury. Maybe it was a great deal in contrast to the "Valley of Death" Clement insists Sudbury was facing at the time, but that reality really only ever existed in dark spaces of Clement’s own mind (see: "Sudbury According to Tony Clement")

I believe the Union is onto something here, given that Sudbury and Labrador are never going to elect a Conservative MP. Could it have been that the Conservatives just didn’t really care about Inco and the health of the Canadian mineral resource sector?

Or maybe it was something more insidious than just apathy. Maybe the mining industry, already perceived as an axis of evil by many voters, was being set up as a straw-man. Think about it.
In the next election, Stephen Harper gets up and tells Canadians that he’s taking action on climate change by agreeing to work with Obama by joining a North American cap and trade system. Sure, there will be exemptions for the tar sands, as the Canadian economy would be in dire straits if there weren’t. Even Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals recognize the importance of the tar sands, Harper will say, so really it’s a non-issue. Plus, the tar sands is getting its act together, and the Conservative government is investing billions of dollars in carbon capture and storage technology. What more could Canadians want? Oh yeah...Canadians would want to make sure that other "dirty" industries are doing their fair share. Well, look no further than Sudbury and at the mining industry in general. They’re being forced to reduce emissions under the cap and trade system, while simultaneously investing in local communities.

Nevermind that these local investments are actually just dollars being spent on out-sourcing, which have the effect of devastating local economies built to service the mining sector (and which could actually lead to a reduction in Canadian ghg emissions, as a defunct Canadian business spews no CO2), the story itself will play well in the media. Harper Takes Real Action on Climate Change! Read All About It!

One of the upcoming battles against climate change will be fought on the grounds of PROCUREMENT. With talk in the media about increasing Canadian opposition to "Buy American" policies in the U.S., it’s interesting that International Trade Minister Stockwell Day has been lobbying the provinces to bind themselves and their "creatures", the municipalities, to NAFTA rules for procurement. Day says that this would create a fair and level playing field for these levels of government, in keeping with NAFTA, to procure goods at the lowest prices.

Nevermind that municipal and provincial governments would have to kiss goodbye any "buy local" policies they may have put in place on their own at the demand of their local citizens. Nevermind that local jobs could be lost to lower bids emerging from wage-challenged businesses in the U.S. and Mexico who have little understanding of local realities in our own communities. (see: Stuart Trew and Blair Redlin, "No payoff for premiers in ‘Buy American’ fix", Toronto Star, August 7, 2009)

But, boy, wouldn’t such provincial and municipal procurement policies be in keeping with the sort of globalization that the Conservatives clearly believe in? Wouldn’t it also play well with core Conservative voters? "Look at what we’ve done," they’ll say. "We’ve led the way by requiring provincial and municipal governments to obtain the best deals that they can for spending your hard-earned tax dollars on local infrastructure and service delivery." No matter that local jobs disappear and tax revenues collected from local properties decrease as local businesses are undercut by international firms which play by different rules when it comes to wages and benefits and dealing with environmental concerns.

Sort of like what Vale Inco is doing by favouring low-priced anti-environmental mining sector suppliers over more eco-conscious Canadian businesses who pay their employees decent wages.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Canadian businesses aren’t competitive, only that there need to be other considerations made when we’re talking about building healthy communities. Clearly, outsourcing to international firms instead of investing in Canadian jobs is problematic at the best of times, but if there is a greater value in doing so, yes, we should consider it. Problem is, what is "value" here based on? More often than not, it’s a simple matter of looking at financial costs only: a company in Sao Paulo can provide a service at a lower price than a company in Sudbury can, and the procurement decision is made on that basis alone. Nevermind that the company in Sao Paulo pays its employees $1 an hour in wages and dumps all sorts of carbon into the air as part of their manufacturing processes.

Fair and reasonable compensation for work provided is a Canadian value which is often absent in outsourcing situations. Increasingly, Canadians are coming to value the purchasing of products and services which contribute less pollution to our air and water. In part, the Buy Local initiatives which are growing throughout Canada, as manifested in Sudbury’s downtown Farmer’s Market, are at the leading edge of this trend. With the Wal-Mart-ization of our communities with a heavy dependency on carbon, it’s fair to say that eco-friendly local businesses are on their way to becoming a Canadian value as well.

In the face of this reality, however, the Conservative government of Canada is ready to sell-out Canadian businesses and industries in favour of their oilpatch buddies, and so that they can be seen to be taking action on climate change. Canada’s natural resource sector industries are becoming increasingly internationalized in the name of cost-savings, when the reality is that their business practices are more damaging to the environment and the Canadian economy, which is a bit of a stretch to the definition of "cost savings" in my opinion.

Why is this happening? Well, it’s happening because Conservatives have never really bought into the notion that climate change is real, or that we need to do something about it. Lip-service needs to be paid to it, but no real action is required. Current business practices and economic growth are the centrepiece of any Conservative conversation on conservation.

And it’s happening because too many Canadians remain disengaged. For many, it’s enough to believe that action is being taken, because government officials say it’s going on. Who wouldn’t want to believe President Obama when he refers to "bold steps being taken". Surely something is being done, or else the media wouldn’t print it, right? Oh well, climate change isn’t the sort of sexy issue which lends itself to a sound-bite anyway.

Greens, we need to continue getting the message out there that Conservative and Liberal inaction on climate change can no longer be tolerated, because the crisis is now upon us; we’ve overshot 350 ppm of CO2 in our atmosphere where global temperatures will remain stable, and we’re on track to overshooting the anticipated 2 degree rise in global temperature at 450 ppm. With Obama’s 17% plan or even Harper’s plan of 20% reduction of ghg emissions by 2020 using a 2005 baseline, we’ll be in for a world of hurt, and far above 450 ppm.

See? Not sound-bite friendly. But important, important, important.

I’m growing so very weary of all of this Conservative game-playing.