Thursday, September 27, 2012

Prosperity in a Low-Carbon Economy: Greater Sudbury Should Say "No" to Costly Rural Residential Development

The following text is taken from Speaking Notes prepared in advance of a special public meeting (September 27/12), hosted by the City of Greater Sudbury's planning staff, as part of the City's 5-year review of our Official Plan.  The review has been on-going for sometime.  Planning staff had previously identified a number of issues with the OP for which citizen input and review were sought, including active transportation, development on lakes at capacity, etc.  One of the items which has worked its way onto the input/review agenda appears as a result of direction given to staff by Council: to assess how existing rural severance policies can be loosened to facilitate more development in rural areas. 

The September 27/12 special public meeting was the first public opportunity for input on rural residential development.  In response, I put together the following oral presentation, some of which I have stolen from previous blogs which I've written on the subject (especially my earlier four part series, "Greater Sudbury at a Crossroads", appearing in late May/early June of this year; here are "Part 1: Looking Backwards and Moving Forwards"; "Part 2: The Importance of the Decision Making Process"; "Part 3: Planning to get Around in the City of Tomorrow"; and, "Part 4: Towards a Green City").  I have previously blogged about this issue in February, 2012 ("Why Restricting Rural Residential Development in Greater Sudbury Makes Sense") and in August, 2011 ("Exurban Development in Greater Sudbury: Fiscally Irresponsible, Environmentally Unsustainable").

This presentation was not a popular one tonight.  Most people at the meeting were rural landowners who have been frustrated by existing development policies.  In all fairness, though, I have to say that many speakers were simply looking for a more balanced approach to assessing development.  Concerns were expressed as well about the minimum lot size requirements (5 acres).  After listening to the speakers tonight, I think it's fair to say that while I am still opposed to loosening existing rural residential development policy in the Official Plan, perhaps there should be greater opportunities to evaluate development proposals on their own merits. 

That means, though, creating the right policy environment.  Right now, policies indicate that you can create from an original parcel up to 3 new lots, as-of-right, as long as they are all 5 acres or greater.  A better approach would be to have policies which restrict development in rural areas, unless it can be adequately demonstrated that a single new lot can be created which can support a septic system and well, and which won't lead to negative public health impacts.  Policies should spell out the criteria for landowners to follow, while requiring a site-specific amendment to the Official Plan.  That may be the sort of balanced approach which I was not contemplating when I put together the following presentation.

These speaking notes were provided to municipal planning staff at the public meeting, for their records.  Subheaders have been included in this blogpost to hopefully make it a little more readable.


My name is Steve May, and I am a resident of the City of Greater Sudbury, Ward 12. I am here this evening after having reviewed the City’s press release regarding tonight’s meeting. I understand that, as part of the 5-year review of the City’s Official Plan, the City is considering making changes to policies regarding rural residential land development applications. Changes currently being considered, and which are the subject of tonight’s meeting, consist of amending OP policies which would have the affect of lowering the area and frontage requirements for new rural residential lots.

It is expected that the lowering of area and frontage requirements will lead to increased opportunities for the creation of rural residential lots. It has been cited that existing Official Plan requirements are prohibiting rural residential development.

I believe that the City of Greater Sudbury should seriously entertain the notion that existing policies for rural residential severances need to be changed. Evidence now strongly suggests that our Official Plan’s existing policies are having a detrimental impact on orderly development within the City, as well as a negative impact on the use of the City’s fiscal resources, including those resources derived from municipal taxpayers.

No Case for Rural Residential Development

Let me be clear: There is no case, no economic, environmental or social case, which can be made which justifies expanding opportunities for the creation of more rural residential lots in the City of Greater Sudbury. No case can be made on the basis of need, either, as demonstrated by the City’s own studies related to land supply and vacant lot analysis. The only case which can be made with regards to changing the City’s Official Plan policies as they pertain to rural residential development is one which adds further restrictions or an outright prohibition on rural residential lot creation in our City.

The only case which could possibly be made to allow additional rural residential severances is one which favours the economic interests of private rural landowners over the interests of all other taxpayers. And I would argue that on that basis, it is clearly not within the interests of the City of Greater Sudbury and the vast majority of its residents to shift land development policies in a direction which financially disadvantages the majority of citizens.

Real Costs

It is well known that the true costs of rural residential development make this form of development activity the most expensive type for taxpayers to maintain over time. Rural residential development is inefficient and costly, and it is subsidized by other taxpayers. The maintenance subsidy is a drain on our scarce resources, which would clearly be better spent providing the sorts of services which the citizens can derive a net benefit from.

Academic and real-world studies, on which sound planning principles and practices are based, have shown time and again that restricting rural residential development makes sense for a community, for a number of reasons. These reasons may be related to land use compatibility issues in the rural area, related to resource extraction and tourism, and the preservation of lands for agricultural activities and uses. Reasons given for restrictions are also related to minimizing requirements for the expansion of services and infrastructure. These reasons are well-known, and land use policies throughout Ontario and here in Greater Sudbury acknowledge the need to limit residential development outside of well-defined settlement areas.

What is not as well-understood, but which is becoming increasingly apparent, is that there are other impacts from rural residential development which should be considered when land use policy is being developed. These impacts are related to resource depletion, climate change, and creating the conditions for local economic prosperity. Our economic prosperity will be determined by how successful we are at planning for and creating communities which meet our anticipated future needs. A city which provides opportunities for people and businesses to thrive in a low-carbon economy will be a better place for all of its residents.

Growth and Settlement Background Report and Issues Paper

In the City’s Growth and Settlement Background Report and Issues Paper, dated May 28, 2012, the City advises that Greater Sudbury will experience modest growth over the next two decades, with a population rising from the existing 160,274 (in 2011) to 170,680 people in the year 2032. Coupled with a declining household size, we can expect the need for an additional 4,400 dwellings over the next 20 years.

Is the City prepared to meet the needs of tomorrow’s residents? The answer is buried in the Growth and Settlement Background Report. When the Official Plan was first put together in 2006, population was forecast to rise to around 170,000 by the year 2021. Now, after 5 years, recent analysis has shown that we are generally on target for a modest increase in population, albeit perhaps at pace which is a little slower.

The Growth and Settlement Background Report, which projects a need for an additional 4,400 units to accommodate a population of approximately 170,000, indicates that there is a need to increase the number of households annual by approximately 220 units. The Report indicates that this annual increase is far smaller than the increase which the City has actually experienced over the past 5 years. Although our needs for new households are modest, we’ve been creating almost 600 new dwelling units a year.

No Need

Clearly, when we look at the real needs of our City, the pace of current development activity is at a level far greater than our needs require. While this level of activity is sure to provide Sudburians with greater choice in the future, likely coupled with lower house prices due to an over-saturated market, it can not justify changes to land use policy which encourage yet more development. In fact, the breakneck pace of development which we’ve been experiencing can only justify a further tightening of development policies, and in particular, those policies which facilitate development in areas which don’t make sense.

Beyond the 600 annual new dwelling units per year created over the last 5 years, we’ve seen extensive development proposals for approximately 1,000 units in the Minnow Lake area, and hundreds of other units along the Paris/Long Lake Road corridor.

Simply put, Greater Sudbury has no need to loosen development policies, and facilitate the creation of more residential lots outside of urban areas. While some will argue that it is incumbent upon the City to allow residents to determine the best locations in which to live, the argument doesn’t hold up for a number of reasons.

First, the Growth and Settlement Background Report identifies that there already exists 475 existing vacant residential lots in the rural area. The Report goes on to clearly identify that at current rates of take-up, this existing vacant lot supply could last up to 50 years. With such a healthy supply of vacant lots already in existence for residential development, there is clearly no need to create more!

The second reason goes back to what I was discussing earlier, and it has to do with the true costs of rural residential development, and how these costs are disproportionately borne by municipal taxpayers.

Complete Communities

Rural residents have few choices when it comes to accessing services and infrastructure. Just this past week, there was a letter to the editor of the Sudbury Star complaining about the traffic in this City. And there have been numerous stories about the cost of road maintenance. What is clear are that the choices which are made with regards to development form have contributed to existing situations. With the knowledge that creating car-dependent communities contributes to traffic congestion and road maintenance costs, it only makes economic sense to create complete communities which offer residents broader choices when it comes to transportation.

Lately, Greater Sudbury has been doing just that. Denser subdivisions, infilling within existing urban areas, and facilitating the creation of second units within existing homes – all of these efforts go towards creating the type of community we need to thrive in the emergent low-carbon economy. Further, infrastructure costs related to this form of development are significantly lower because of the reliance on existing infrastructure, and where tax dollars have to be spent for improvements, there is a higher critical mass of residents who receive the benefit.

Some might say that’s fine, but what does it hurt to allow people the choice to develop in rural areas? The truth, however, is that since we can expect only a limited increase in population, it only makes sense to do the best job that we can to derive the greatest net benefit from this limited increase. If we know that we need only 4,400 dwellings to meet our 20 year needs, it would be best to focus the vast majority of those dwellings within areas where they will bring the largest benefit to the community.
And those areas are within existing settlement areas, where transit-supportive communities can thrive.

Using Limited Resources Wisely

Knowing that only a limited number of new people are coming to our City, it makes no sense to encourage opportunities for those new people to spread out into rural areas, where the costs of servicing are so much higher. In Greater Sudbury, urban taxpayers already subsidize rural landowners to a significant degree through the costs of road building and maintenance, and the provision of emergency services to remote parts of the City. It’s not just the roads in the rural areas, either. Rural commuters add to the urban congestion which the rest of experience in the form of traffic, because of the car-dependent nature of rural development. Vast parking lots for commuters occupy critical public lands – these parking wastelands could be better used to facilitate commercial and industrial expansion, but instead parking lots are taxpayer-subsidized short-term rental properties for car culture convenience. These are the sorts of costs which increase due to development form.

Car-dependent development also carries high health, environmental and social impacts. Better development options are those which seek to offer the greatest level of lower carbon alternatives for transport, and which are based on the principles of smart growth.

Towards a Green City

Generally speaking, Greater Sudbury seems to understand that healthy communities are worth aspiring too. This proposal, which seeks to encourage rural residential development, would be a fundamental step backward in building the sort of community which we need to meet the economic challenges of the 21st Century. The impacts which a higher level of rural residential development will have on servicing and infrastructure needs cannot be tolerated by taxpayers.

To reiterate, there is no economic, social or environmental case which can be made for loosening existing restrictions on rural residential development. No case can be made on the basis of need, either.

I have made this submission before, and I will make it again. Instead of looking at changing policies in the Official Plan to facilitate more rural residential development, our municipal Council should be looking towards greater restrictions, or an outright policy prohibition. In these lean economic times, our decision-makers must take greater care with how public monies are spent, and on decisions which lead to long-term costs. Being that there is no case for continuing to allow this expensive development form, I urge our municipal councillors to take a very close look at the long-term costs of facilitating any more residential development in our rural areas, especially given the 50-year supply of existing vacant lots in the City.

The choices we make today in Greater Sudbury are going to reverberate throughout our collective future like ripples from pebbles tossed into a pond. It’s therefore important that we get things right the first time, at least as best as we can. Decisions should be made based on the best information available at the time. Ideally, decisions should lead to the creation of the most benefit for those making the decision. Let’s continue to invest public dollars where it makes sense to do so. Facilitating costly rural residential development, however, is not a wise use of public money.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and should not be considered consistent with those of the Green Party of Canada)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Carbon Tax Fall-Out: Tom Mulcair and the NDP Choose Partisan Games Over Good Public Policy

Today, I am at a complete loss to adequately explain the growing frustration which I’ve been feeling with the Tom Mulcair’s New Democratic Party. “Frustration”, frankly, is too light a term to describe the feeling. As I can’t explain the emotion, let me at least relay the facts which have led me to this breaking point.

When Tom Mulcair was elected Leader of the NDP back in March, I was cautiously optimistic that he would bring a higher level of discourse to Ottawa, particularly around the economics of climate change, and why it’s important that action be taken. For me, the NDP has always seemed to be a Party which talked a good game about the environment, but frankly had little clue about what sorts of appropriate actions would be necessary to combat the climate crisis. For every NDP proposal which would have helped reduce our dependence of fossil fuels (eliminate corporate subsidies to multi-national oil companies; put a price on carbon emissions) there was a counter-proposal which would negate impacts and continue to place an economic burden on future generations (capping gasoline prices at the pump; subsidizing electricity bills).

Mulcair Chooses Spin Over Substance

Tom Mulcair, I thought, understood that haphazard uncoordinated actions would not lead to the sorts of emissions reductions which Canada has got to start seriously contemplating if we are truly going to be a world leader in the emerging green economy. Sure, I have never been wild about Cap & Trade, Mulcair and the NDP’s signature economic policy to address climate change impacts. But with the right supports in place, Cap & Trade at least might actually reduce emissions, given enough time, and do so in a way which might not bankrupt the economically challenged. Mulcair, who started his term as NDP Leader talking openly about sustainably developing the Alberta tar sands, seemed like he might “get it”.

In the last week, though, with parliament having returned after a summer break, it’s become crystal clear that for reasons of partisan game-playing, the NDP under Tom Mulcair doesn’t “get it” – and will go to great lengths to ensure that their spin-controlled message replaces anything akin to serious debate about Canada’s economic future.

Climate Change is an Economic Issue, Requiring Economic Policy Responses

Make no mistake: while Canada’s economy might be relatively healthy at present, if we stay the course, we are setting ourselves up to run into serious economic issues related to climate change and resource depletion. Our economy is already experiencing the mild effects of a warming planet, manifested in rising food prices, and the effects of resource depletion through rising gasoline prices. The continued threats posed by global warming and the end of inexpensive energy are real. Many whom traditionally support the NDP understand this.

Yet, Mulcair and the NDP would rather spin-control their message than develop any serious ideas about how best to address the coming economic crisis. This week, we’ve seen Mulcair and his acolytes go on the offensive over Canada’s trade deficit and capping gasoline prices, while ignoring the concerted attacks made by the Conservative Party over the NDP’s alleged support of a carbon tax. The NDP, rather than engage on the issue of carbon pricing (which is both an economic and environmental issue), instead chose to brand the Conservatives as “liars” without any attempt to explain just how their beloved Cap & Trade policy will actually impact Canadians.

Looking for Real Climate Heros?

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, and former Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, took Mulcair to task for this missed opportunity. Instead of engaging, however, Mulcair chose to refer to a “carbon tax” as being “regressive”, a term which in politics is followed by the sound of a door slamming on a potential policy outcome. A change of mind now on the NDP’s carbon pricing policy simply can no longer happen, for the “regressive” sound bite will be played over and over by his pro-climate change Conservative rivals.

And the fact that consumption taxes are anything but “regressive” seems to matter nothing at all to Mulcair. We’ve managed to reduce health-destroying tobacco use through the imposition of consumption taxes. We’ve succeeded in reducing acid rain by pricing the industrial use of sulphur dioxide. What’s regressive about curtailing carbon pollution by making it more expensive for those who choose to pollute?

Elizabeth May had this to say about Mulcair earlier this week:

“Thomas Mulcair should be ashamed for not defending a carbon tax system. British Columbia now has had such a revenue-neutral carbon tax in place for four years. The last time I checked, the economy of the province had not vanished. Not only that, but people in B.C. actually support the system.”

Today in parliament, Elizabeth May was shouted down by the NDP, after asking what Mulcair would do about the climate crisis, if the NDP were to form government. The NDP is clearly on a mission to marginalize other voices in the House, and add fuel to the flames of Canada’s democratic deficit in the process. It seems that they’ve determined that their future electoral success is riding on silencing other voices.

NDP Chooses Partisanship Over Policy

I am troubled by this for so many reasons, not least of which because I see uncritical supporters of the NDP in my own community mimic the politician’s talking points and engage in mindless partisanship. I know that many of these people are actually interested in taking action on climate change, and very concerned about the growing democratic deficit. Yet they are content to throw reasonable debate on good public policy under the bus in order to champion their own talking points, because they believe that the NDP will be more “electable” if they play the message-management game. This is what I’ve come to expect from Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party. It is an absolute shame that the NDP has decided to engage in these same tactics now that they believe themselves to be a government in waiting.

I follow Sudbury NDP MP Glen Thibeault on Twitter. Full disclosure: I believe that Glen Thibeault is a hard-working MP and an asset to Sudbury. I often see Glen at community events both big and small, and I’ve heard Glen speak a number of times about important issues in the community. I think Glen is a really good guy. And that’s why it saddens me to see our NDP MP parrot the Party’s talking points about carbon taxes and Conservative lies, while trumpeting regressive and economically damaging NDP policies around energy use.

The NDP wants Canadians to think that a carbon tax is regressive because it was once championed by the Liberals, a political party which the NDP (along with the Conservatives) is out to destroy as a valid vehicle of political expression. Although they won’t say it, they are also opposed to a carbon tax because the Green Party supports it. The NDP won’t say it because it is an NDP stratagem to *never* talk about the Green Party, for talking about the Greens would be an acknowledgement that the Green Party actually exists and has a place in Canada’s political spectrum, which they see as a threat. Remember: it was Jack Layton’s decision in 2008 to initially deny Elizabeth May an opportunity to participate in the televised leadership debates. I can’t help but wonder if Mulcair will try to pull the same stunt in 2015.

What the NDP does instead is trumpet their Cap & Trade policy without explaining at all how it will actually work. And that is critical, because any Cap & Trade scheme is bound to raise consumer prices on many goods and services. But the NDP doesn’t acknowledge this. And they have no plan about how best to address rising prices (probably because they won’t acknowledge that prices will actually rise). What kind of economic policy does that amount to? Wishful thinking, at best maybe.

Carbon Pricing - Why Getting the Right Policy is Important

In fact, consumer prices are bound to rise under any carbon pricing plan, including the Conservative’s own poorly-implemented (and needlessly expensive) plan for to regulate carbon emission standards for industrial sectors (the Conservatives, too, refuse to acknowledge that their actions will lead to rising prices for consumers). And yes, a carbon tax will also raise prices for consumers. Why run away from these facts? I don’t know. For me, discussing them is part of the informed debate on which process to price emissions (and thereby reducing emissions) works better.

Business and industry leaders in Canada have for years now acknowledged that carbon pricing is coming. They’ve been trying to drive the debate about the best mechanisms to price carbon, and many, including CEO’s in some of the largest multinational oil companies, such as Shell and Exxon, have suggested that a direct tax would be the simplest way to price emissions. It would also lead to stable and predictable prices, which are important for small businesses which don’t have the same flexibilities to absorb market-driven changes to prices. That’s probably the biggest reason that I’m not a fan of Cap & Trade, because it could disadvantage small, local businesses.

But the other advantage of a revenue-neutral carbon tax has over Cap & Trade is that taxation revenues derived from the tax can be put back into programs which will ensure that those least well off are not severely impacted by rising prices. What’s not clear is that the NDP has taken into consideration how, exactly, rising prices might impact the economically vulnerable, particularly those who are living on fixed incomes. This is probably because the NDP continues to want to pretend that Cap & Trade is only going to impact large corporations, and not, well, everyone. Or does the NDP really naively believe that corporations won’t pass along increased costs to consumers?

Sadly ironic is the fact that those very same people who are most at risk from a poorly implemented Cap & Trade scheme are the very same people whom the NDP has traditionally championed – the economically vulnerable.

NDP Paints Itself Into a Carbon Corner

A much better approach would be for the NDP to move away from a wasteful Cap & Trade scheme for carbon pricing altogether, and actually adopt the revenue-neutral carbon tax called for by business and industry. As time has gone by, the verdict on the success of Cap & Trade appears to be negative, with Europe’s carbon trading scheme doing little to reduce emissions, and the private Chicago-based emissions trading scheme having collapsed altogether. In the United States, Congress turned down the Waxman-Markey bill, which would have established Cap & Trade there. Increasingly, revenue-neutral carbon taxes, or carbon fee & dividend approaches, are being championed as a better approach to carbon pricing. However, Mulcair appears to have completely undermined the NDP’s ability to switch horses now with his “regressive” labelling of a carbon tax.

All of this must be very disheartening for Canadians, many of whom have traditionally supported the NDP. For me, it’s beyond frustrating. It’s outright infuriating.

Apparently, Winning is Everything for the NDP

What we’re seeing the NDP turn into under Tom Mulcair’s leadership is a Party more concerned about dividing and conquering than putting good public policy proposals forward. Further, the NDP will continue to wear the mantle of economic mismanagement in the minds of Canadians, since they refuse to acknowledge the likely economic impacts of their own policy proposals. For Canadians concerned about the climate crisis, it should now be clear that the NDP is not the Party which is going to take global warming seriously. We saw it happen in British Columbia recently, with the NDP campaigning against B.C.’s emissions-reducing carbon tax. I fear that the same is now happening with the NDP nationally, and we can expect the NDP to try to silence a legitimate debate on carbon pricing. Likely because the NDP knows that their own policy is poorly conceived.

On carbon pollution, Tom Mulcair says he wants to make the “polluter pay”. But, for partisan political reasons, what he won’t candidly tell Canadians is that the polluter is us. Mulcair cynically wants Canadians to think that the climate crisis can be solved by taxing multinational corporations, while preserving the status quo which we ordinary Canadians have come to enjoy. Now that the era of inexpensive energy use has come to an end, and the world is facing the global challenge of a changing climate, the game has changed. If pretending otherwise is the NDP prescription for prosperity in the 21st Century, Canada under a Mulcair government will be ill-prepared to take advantage of the opportunities which a truly green economy offers. And we will all be worse off for it.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views of the Green Party of Canada)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Greens Not "Absolutely" Opposed to Fossil Fuels, Nuclear and Hydro Power

An edited version of the following text was published in the print version of the Northern Life (Tuesday, September 18, 2012) and on their website on Tuesday, September 24/12.  The following text represents my complete submission to the Northern Life, and includes hyperlinks. 

The original article appearing in the Northern Life which prompted Pat Rogerson's response can be found at, "Ring of Fire plan burns First Nations: Greens", published online on August 8, 2012.  This article was written after Green Party of Ontario Leader, Mike Schreiner, hosted a press conference regarding the Green Party of Ontario's call for the provincial government to develop a Sustainable Northern Development Plan (see: "Greens demand a Sustainable Development Plan for the North to maximize benefits from the Ring of Fire", GPO Press Release, August 8 2012)

Below my original letter to the Northern Life, I have also attached comments which I published online at the Northern Life, in response to the earlier letter to the editor which prompted my letter to the editor.


Re: “Columnist missed a few points”, Letter to the Editor, the Northern Life, published September 11, 2012

As an officer of the Sudbury Federal Green Party Association, I feel compelled to reply to the letter to the editor by Mr. Joel Whipple, published in the Northern Life on September 11, 2012, in response to an earlier column by former Green Party of Ontario candidate Pat Rogerson, published August 28, 2012. Mr. Whipple’s recent letter to the editor contained many statements which were misleading, and in some cases, incoherent. While problematic, there was one assertion made by Mr. Whipple which was completely false, and requires a response.

Mr. Whipple wrote that “the Green Party absolutely opposes hydro dams, as well as nuclear and fossil fuels”. As a member involved in the grassroots policy development processes of both the Green Party of Canada and the Green Party of Ontario, I can assure Northern Life’s readers that neither the provincial or federal Green Party is absolutely opposed to energy produced through hydro-electric generation, burning fossil fuels, or through existing nuclear power facilities. Not only would such opposition be impractical in our society, it would be absurd.

The Green Party’s energy policies emphasize the need to conserve energy as a first priority. Energy savings accrued through conservation means alone would likely address Ontario’s power needs well into the next decade. The least expensive kilowatt of energy is the one which we don’t use. And there are ample opportunities for Ontarians and all Canadians to conserve our energy use.

However, the Green Party acknowledges that we require reliable power. Past investments have left us with an energy system where a significant majority of electricity in Canada is produced by burning fossil fuels, which power our transportation systems and produce electricity. Our governments continue to subsidize fossil fuel energy, to the tune of between $1.2 to $2 billion annually, despite Canada’s commitment to the G20 to eliminate these subsidies. Globally, estimates from the International Energy Agency suggest that governments are subsidizing fossil fuel costs at a staggering $409 billion per year.

In comparison, estimates peg subsidies made to green energy in Ontario as being responsible for a very modest 6% increase to our energy bills. In contrast, 45% of price increases on our electric bills are related to the production of nuclear power in this province. Of course, not all of the real costs of nuclear power appear on our bills. It is estimated that taxpayers will be on the hook for approximately $25 billion to store nuclear waste materials, once a viable plan for long-term storage is in place.

The Green Party has been on record for calls to eliminate the subsidization of fossil fuels, and saying “No” to building expensive new nuclear. Along with eliminating subsidies, we believe that all externalities should be factored into the price of energy production, so that consumers and policy-makers can make informed choices about energy use based on real costs. As far as fossil fuels are concerned, real costs must include the price of climate-changing carbon emissions. If subsidies could be removed from fossil fuel production, and the real costs factored into the price of energy, a significantly stronger case is made for investing in wind, solar, geothermal and hydro (where it makes sense to do so).

Fossil fuels and nuclear power, however, will be a part of Canada’s and Ontario’s energy mix for decades to come, due to the infrastructure choices we have made in the past. The Green Party’s emphasis on conservation, and incorporating full costs into the price of energy use does not mean that Greens oppose all forms of non-renewable energy production, as Mr. Whipple would have you believe. Instead, our policies recognize that Canada must embrace renewables to be a leader in the 21st Century green economy.

-Steve May, Officer, Sudbury Federal Green Party Association

Comments Published Online

As someone with a "few concerns" about Pat's article, I guess I have to express a "few concerns" with Joel Whipple's so-called "facts". First of all, having some experience and understanding with the policies of both the provincial and federal Green Parties, I can say unequivically that neither Party "absolutely opposes" hydro-electrical generation, nuclear power or the use of fossil fuels. Whipple's assertions here are completely misleading.

And speaking of misleading, while it's true that Hollywood made a movie called "Erin Brokovich", it seems that Whipple wants you to forget that there really was (and is) a real Erin Brokovich, who went through significantly greater hardships than those depicted in the fictional film in order to ensure water safety in her community.

As for wind and solar being "unreliable" and "expensive", I suggest that the author take a very close look at the real costs per kilowatt hour for power generation which is paid in this province for the production of electricity. When real costs are factored into the equation, nuclear energy time and again becomes one of the more expensive generating methods available, yet we derive more than half of our baseload supply from nuclear. Real costs for nuclear are impacted not only by the costs of generation, but include mining the product, subsidies and guarantees for insurance, and costs related to transporting and storing waste (something which, although we've been in the business of generating waste for 40 years or more, we still lack a plan to deal with). When externalities are considered, wind and solar energy production compares favorably to hydro, and costs are going down for renewables all the time.

I don't know what to say about someone who compares government scientists to expensive "pen-pushers". Last time I checked, scientists on federal and provincial payrolls (those remaining) were doing pretty good jobs of protecting the public interest. Part of that job includes peer-reviewing the work of private-sector expert-produced reports required by the Environmental Assessment process. Peer review is an integral part of the EA process, and indeed, testable and reproducible science relies on this sort of review, as any grade 10 science student could tell you.

And I'm at a complete loss to even understand what Whipple is trying to say with his last sentence, but it sounds like he thinks Cliffs might have been against hydro-electric generation? I hope not because that just seems bizarre.


Opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own, and should not be construed as being consistent with the views of the Green Party of Canada.