Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cleaning Up

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Well, I'm back from Ottawa and ready and raring to go. "Where have you been?" you might ask realizing that the NDP Breakthrough Conference occurred over a week ago. Well, first I had to catch up at work ... with tuition rates so high, I have to give students their money's worth. Then I just had to respond to our Provincial government's misguided attempts at self-sufficiency. See my personal letter at (and the provincial NDP's position). I also coordinated a group response from NB Economists calling for full cost accounting - see 29 march 2007 Telegraph Journal pages A1, A8 and the letter itself on page A4. I was also interviewed on CBC InfoAM- Fredericton.

So let's talk environment as this very well may be the issue that Harper chooses to go to the polls with. First, it is undeniable fact that the first party to bring global warming to national attention in Parliament was the NDP ... in 1983 - 24 years ago! Second, after tabling a woefully inadequate "Clean Air Act" (Google Frank Luntz and the Clear Skies Act proposed by George W. Bush, and realize that Harper contracted Frank Luntz to advise his governmet - again, confirm with Google) Harper and his cronies agreed to an all party committee to re-examine the act. Take a look at the 15 ammendments proposed by NDP-MP Nathan Cullen ( and realize that only the end to Big Oil/Big Gas subsidies was voted down (by the Conservatives, Liberals, and Bloc). Score one for all of us ordinary Canadians.

A February 2007 report authored by Friends of the Earth and Corporate Knights suggested that to even come close to meeting Canada’s Kyoto targets, we would have to spend $100 billion over 4 years. This is in line with the Stern report suggesting that if we started now, it would cost us about 1% of our annual GDP spent between now and 2012 to effect any change.

That's A LOT of money ... too costly you might say.

Don't let them tell you it can't be done!

Who remembers our last “crisis” which some later labelled a “fizzle?” The Y2K bug. In 1997, the Auditor General of Canada suggested that preparing for the millennium disaster would cost the Canadian economy between $30 billion and $50 billion. In 1999, cost overruns led the government to conclude that its own Y2K costs, estimated to be $1 billion in 1997, had multiplied to between $2.2 and $2.5 billion, in part because of inflationary pressures to hire a limited number of legacy programmers. Using these multipliers, we have a crisis cost between $66-$125 billion to be spent over a 2-3 year period. If we allow for a modest average inflation rate of 1.5% over this time, then costs can be estimated to be between $74-$141 billion in 2007 dollars.

Y2K was solved, not because it was a fizzle, but because we took real action with very real costs. These costs are not out-of-line with the $100 billion we need to spend between now and 2012 to do our small part for the environment. What’s the difference then? I think Y2K was easier to solve because the private sector perceived a direct effect to its bottom line and went to work investing the money necessary. Reinvesting in our environment is a public good and with that comes the free-rider problem and the attendant questions: Why should my business be first? Why should Canada be first? When will China do its part? Why do I have to buy a smaller car when my show-off neighbour has an SUV?

OK, so where might we start? There are many small things we can all do, from turning down thermostats, changing lightbulbs, walking/riding bikes, public transit, carpooling, etc.. Here in NB, you can look online to Efficiency New Brunswick ( But here's a bigger plan we can also implement while pursing energy conservation. New Brunswick has smart hard-working people, a lot of land, many sunny days, large spaces, fertile land, and the highest tides in the world. Suppose we partner with the federal government and set up a province-wide test for renewable energy production where we compare and contrast the efficiency of solar, biofuel, tidal, wind, and geothermal energy production/storage. Imagine ... New Brunswick as world leaders!

We did it once with our ship-building industry. We can do it again, and it works to benefit us all, not just a few elite. We don't have to buy into George W. Bush's hydrocarbon future (a future that many American's reject and very well may reject when Bush leaves office). We don't have to be the supplier for our neighbour's addiction. We can show real leadership on the environment.

Rob Moir (NDP Candidate)

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