Friday, March 28, 2008

Voting Records

People, both NDP supporters and non-supporters, have told me they are upset with the NDP propping up the Harper government. They see Jack Layton as ineffectual and sometimes too cooperative with Harper.

This is a quick summary of the latest sitting of Parliament and votes cast. For greater detail, see this Edmonton Journal article (28 March 2008). There have been a total of 76 votes so far in this session.

Avg # of Votes by MPs

Leader’s # of Votes

% Agreement with CONS

















The average voting rate for Liberal MPs is about 64.4% which is less than the 64.7% of eligible voters who felt called to vote in the last Federal Election.

Who is the Real Opposition?

If you count seats, I guess it is the Liberals.

However, when it comes to votes and voting record, the Real Opposition is the NDP!

If we want to tame Harper, if we want to build a Canada that works for average hardworking Canadians and their families, then next time around, vote NDP. We're always on the job!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Soaring Costs for Afghanistan

On March 25 the Canadian Press reported that the Canadian military has been cleared to fire GPS-guided Excalibur artillery shells in Afghanistan.

These shells cost $150,000 each!

Each time the military fires one of these shells, they spend more than I paid altogether for my house and two slightly-used cars.

With a mounting death toll on all sides, decreased security, and insufficient and inefficient development aid, I think it is high time we stop and completely rethink how we approach this mission.

For more information:

This OXFAM article from Nov. 2007 is quite revealing as is their more recent (Jan. 2008) update.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Oh what a tangled web ...

I think it is great that New Brunswick is finally getting around to suing 14 tobacco companies for the healthcare costs we have paid for over the years. I suspect that the basis for this lawsuit is the half-truths told to us for a long time about the dangers of cigarette smoking - at least that has been the basis for state- and province-wide lawsuits elsewhere.

But, it is here that our story gets a bit twisted.

The public relations campaign for Big Tobacco was handled, at least in part, by Hill & Knowlton. This campaign included issuing The Frank Statement and helping to organize the Council for Tobacco Research which was used to cast doubt on the many scientific papers that raised health concerns about smoking. (The Council for Tobacco Research closed in 1999.)

While this ancient history is being rehashed in our province, we seem to be headed down a similar path.

One of Hill & Knowlton's more recent clients is the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) which has focused on marketing nuclear power as the new "green" energy. Interestingly, a 1998 ruling by the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in the United States has issued a warning to the NEI recommending that "water and air pollution claims be carefully qualified to avoid any potential for customer confusion, and that the broad, unqualified claims that nuclear energy is 'Environmentally Clean' or produces electricity 'without polluting the environment' be discontinued."

It is also interesting to note that one of the members for the pro-nuclear front group established by Hill & Knowlton is none other than Patrick Moore who made a pro-nuclear presentation in Saint John in early 2008.

When will we ever learn?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Letters to the Editor...

The two following letters appeared in the March 13th edition of the Telegraph Journal in Saint John, NB.

Save the money wasted on reports

I suspect that the Graham government will one day be remembered as an era of rule by report. I am not sure how many will think that it was an era of 'good' rule however.

Many people predicted the general policy recommendations of the Post-Secondary Education report before it was officially released, even as a trial balloon. It would seem that recommending that we destroy universities and build polytechnics might be expected when one of the report's authors (Rick Miner) sits on the board of Polytechnics Canada.

While I have heard on his call-in sessions that Education Minister Lamrock is not interested in anecdotal evidence, I was told last summer that French immersion in general, and early French immersion in particular, was under threat from his office.

Half-a-year later the government receives a report that, contrary to respected evidence from across the nation, severely undermines French immersion in New Brunswick.

Then the government receives "Public Views on Forest Management in New Brunswick" which surveys people's opinions of the management of Crown lands. This report is about our land, and how we feel about it; so the Graham government permits one public presentation of the report's findings and cancels eight others.

If this government wants to rule by decree - not something that I support - then please save taxpayers the money you waste on reports that either reach the conclusion you've already come to, or provide information that you are unwilling to hear.

NDP candidate for Fundy Royal


Canadians want clean air, water

Canadians want action to protect our environment. We want clean air and water for our children and grandchildren. Unfortunately the Harper government isn't listening. A year ago, the Conservatives introduced their so-called Clean Air Act - a bill that would make the air dirtier.

The NDP convinced all parties to work together to re-write the bill.

The new Clean Air and Climate Change Act was supported by the majority of Parliament. When the government shelved the improved C-30, the NDP made a motion to bring the Bill back. That motion also was supported by a majority of this House.

Yet, now, months later, no action has been taken on this Bill. The NDP believes that Canadians can't wait any longer, and used their Opposition Day in the House of Commons on Monday to introduce a vote of non-confidence in the Harper government, for its refusal to bring the Clean Air and Climate Change Act back to the House. That motion was defeated with the help of the Liberals.

Millions of Canadians who sent Liberal MPs to Ottawa must be sorely disappointed to know that only ten Liberal MP's even voted on this motion.

All the others abstained, including each and every New Brunswick Liberal MP.

Why do Dion's Liberals continue to prop up the Harper government? Are no issues important enough for action? Not even the environment?

Only the NDP has been consistently determined to protect our environment and Canadian families.

Only the NDP has been serving as opposition.

(NDP Candidate for) Tobique-Mactaquac

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Recent Letter - Cluster Munitions

This was published in the March 4 Telegraph Journal.

Little mention of cluster munitions

There is little or no mention in the Canadian news of the recent Conference on Cluster Munitions that took place in Wellington, New Zealand (Feb. 18-22). Only CBC's "Overnight" show mentioned the conference as part of its Dutch Public Radio summary. In total, 82 nations including Canada signed a draft treaty to ban cluster munitions, as reported by Human Rights Watch. As the nation that led the charge to ban landmines around the world we should be proud of this recent accomplishment.

Still, we should note that Canada tried to weaken the draft treaty because of interoperability issues with the United States whose military uses cluster munitions in places like Afghanistan. The United States, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and Russia were not party to the draft treaty.

I hope that when the treaty is signed in Dublin in May, the Canadian delegation can sign the document with confidence that defines a new-found Canadian independence in foreign relations. I also hope that there is more news coverage of the signing.


NDP candidate for Fundy Royal

Why Vote NDP?

This comes from the Ottawa Sun.

Fri, February 29, 2008

There's always another option

Stephane Dion, recently U-Boated on YouTube, can be trusted on one point: To secure victory he is always ready to retreat.

Rick Mercer notwithstanding, what is the average non-comedian to make of Captain Collapse's latest battle whimper? -- "We'll find a way to not defeat the government and to express our disagreement with this budget."

So just how does one suck while also attempting to blow? By having a handful of Liberals vote against the budget while the rest abstain or stay in bed.

If a confidence vote is at one level the invitation to step outside and settle it in the parking lot, the Grits have signalled time after time that there is nothing on the political landscape worth fighting for, including the Afghanistan mission, the environment, the omnibus crime bill or the economic direction of the country.

I have a suggestion for giving the gutless Grits what they deserve. Who says they are the only government in waiting? There has been another party around since 1961 that has never been trusted to be the government of this country or even the Opposition, though in 1988 the NDP did win 43 seats. My proposal is this: Those hordes of urban voters who just can't stand the Conservatives should try a new option -- the NDP.

I have to laugh when callers to my program inveigh against the very possibility of giving the NDP some real power in Parliament. Most of them want to talk about the disastrous economic consequences of what the "socialists" would do. Without noting the party's commitment to balanced budgets, they talk about the mountains of debt that would pile up.

But wait? Wasn't it the Liberals under Pierre Trudeau who spent the numbers off the national credit card and attempted to breast-feed the nation from cradle to grave? Wasn't it the Conservatives under Brian Mulroney who pushed Canada toward fiscal meltdown in two terms of drop-dead financial profligacy? Never mind what the NDP might do. Think about what the traditional parties have done. By the latest calculations, Canadians are coughing up $18 million a day, every day, to pay the interest on the mountains of debt the so-called "responsible" parties have racked up.

Then there is the "Remember Ontario" refrain, a dour reference to Bob Rae's dubious stewardship of Confederation's former Big Kahuna. Surely because of what Bob Rae did to Ontario, surely the NDP must never be trusted to govern again. People who argue like that almost never want to talk about Roy Romanow, living proof that an NDP government can be every bit as fiscally responsible as anyone else, while still promoting the party's policies and values.

It bears remembering: Those enemies of the Common Sense Revolution may not have liked Mike Harris, but no one suggests that a Conservative must never again run the show at Queen's Park. Quebecers booted out Robert Bourassa with great gusto, then brought him back, and now have another Liberal calling the shots in Quebec City. A poor job rating does not bring eternal banishment to the traditional parties, so why should it to the NDP?

The list of NDP politicians that didn't ruin their provinces by winning power is long and not without some distinction: Dave Barrett, Mike Harcourt, Glen Clark, Alan Blakeney, Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert. Gazooks, even Albertans once voted in the NDP as the official Opposition!

I ask you, is it really that scary to think of Jack Layton where Stephane Dion now sits showing the white feather? After all, at least the guy has a forward gear.

Official Opposition?

This comes from the NDP website. While I knew that the Liberal Party had assisted Mr. Harper on some issues, I didn't realize the extent of the list:

Harper’s agenda: Kill NDP motion to ban cosmetic pesticides
Liberals helped by: Voting with Harper (16 May 2006)

Harper’s agenda: Extend the combat mission in Afghanistan from 2007 until 2009
Liberals helped by: Voting with Harper (17 May 2006)

Harper’s agenda: Permit replacement workers in federal workplaces
Liberals helped by: Voting with Harper (21 March 2007)

Harper’s agenda: Kill NDP motion for withdrawal from combat mission in Afghanistan
Liberals helped by: Voting with Harper. (30 April 2007)

Harper’s agenda: Kill NDP motion to restart study of electoral reform
Liberals helped by: Voting with Harper (2 May 2007)

Harper’s agenda: End Canada’s involvement in Kyoto
Liberals helped by: Abstaining (24 October 2007)

Harper’s agenda: Cut $5.3 billion a year from public services
Liberals helped by: Abstaining (31 October 2007)

Harper’s agenda: Stop a package to help the ailing manufacturing and forestry sector
Liberals helped by: Abstaining (14 November 2007)

Harper’s agenda: Put $50.5 billion in giveaways to profitable corporations ahead of child care, poverty alleviation and First Nations
Liberals helped by: Abstaining four times (4, 10 and 13 December 2007)

Harper’s agenda: Reinstate "security certificates" opposed by human rights advocates
Liberals helped by: Voting with Harper (6 February 2008)

Harper’s agenda: Link passage of crime bills to confidence in the government –
Liberals helped by: Abstained (12 February 2008)

Harper’s agenda: Have third budget adopted without bargaining with opposition parties
Liberals helped by: Ordering enough Liberal MPs to miss the vote to ensure its passage (4 March 2008)

Harper’s agenda: Extend Canada’s military role in Afghanistan until 2011
Liberals helped by: Negotiating an extension of Canada’s military role until 2011 (13 March 2008)

The full feature can be found here.

An Interesting Take on Afghanistan

On March 1 an interesting article "The ugly truth in Afghanistan" appeared. It is lengthy, but quite a worthwhile read. I will include multiple links as the paper often removes story links after a while.

Here's a link
This link takes you to the G&M's text version of the article
Here's the Globe & Mail online link

Chalk River Fallout - Manufactured Crisis?

The events at the Chalk River nuclear reactor seem to be nothing more than a thinly disguised attempt by a government to assume control of the nuclear industry in Canada. The firing of Linda Keen, the Executive Director of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, takes on a whole new meaning in light of this story.

Government inflated fear of medical isotope shortage
Backup supplies were readily available from reactors in Europe and South Africa
March 01, 2008
Alan Kuperman

When Canada's Parliament overrode the country's top nuclear-safety regulator in December, ordering the restart of a nuclear reactor at Chalk River in the absence of documented safety upgrades to guard against a core meltdown, most Canadians assumed such emergency action was necessary to assure a continued supply of vital medical isotopes.

But this assumption was false – a canard employed to persuade legislators to sidestep the safety officials, thereby protecting the profits of a private Canadian company at the expense of risking a nuclear accident.

The company, MDS Nordion, now admits that prior to the emergency legislation of Dec. 12, it already was receiving backup isotope supplies from a South African producer, NTP.

Two days later, Nordion started receiving isotopes from Europe, another backup that it knew was on the way prior to Parliament's action.

Such facts were not reported at the time, which leaves only two possibilities: The information was withheld by Nordion or by the government.

In light of these revelations, Nordion now insists that all potential backup supplies were inadequate to satisfy customer demand without also restarting the National Research Universal reactor at Chalk River.

Says a Nordion spokesperson: "None of the other commercial isotope reactors have the ability to do more than increase their collective production capacity by 10 to 15 per cent in this type of an unplanned event. These producers collectively cannot mitigate this type of a precipitous event."

But this latest Nordion claim also is false, according to a definitive accounting of global isotope production capacity presented at an international conference in 2005 by Belgian scientists from one of the world's largest isotope producers, Institut National des Radioéléments.

The report documents that European and South African reactors typically operate well below capacity, which is why they together produce less than 60 per cent of world demand, while Nordion produces almost as much at a single reactor. But at peak operation, the non-Canadian reactors are capable of producing a collective 160 per cent of world demand.

In other words, these foreign sources can increase production not by a mere 10 to 15 per cent, as Nordion claims, but several-fold, sufficient to fully satisfy global demand even during a temporary Canadian shutdown.

Obviously, Nordion has grossly understated the foreign backup capacity, but it is equally important not to exaggerate it. Overseas facilities undergo planned and unplanned outages, so the peak capacity of non-Canadian reactors at any point in time could be somewhat less than 160 per cent of world demand. Still, under typical circumstances, they are able to satisfy global demand.

Of course, peak capacity cannot be sustained indefinitely. Therefore, a permanent shutdown of the NRU reactor at Chalk River, in the absence of new reactors, would adversely affect the global supply of medical isotopes.

But a short-term shutdown, such as the several weeks that were required to connect backup power to the NRU's emergency coolant pumps, could have been compensated for by a surge in operation of the foreign reactors.

Another concern is that overseas production could be constrained not only by availability of reactors but by the capacity of associated facilities that process irradiated uranium to extract the isotopes.

Typically, however, such facilities likewise operate well below peak capacity, so they too can surge in a crisis.

Finally, money affects production capacity. If a customer asks the operator of a reactor or a processing facility to operate overtime or during a scheduled vacation, it may have to pay extra for the privilege.

Nordion insists that it tried and failed to obtain isotopes from Europe during the NRU shutdown, but some European facilities actually were sitting idle. So the real obstacle may have been Nordion's unwillingness to pay a premium, rather than any alleged inadequacy of European capacity.

Last month, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission announced a jointly sponsored investigation of their actions.

Certainly an inquiry is warranted by a series of missteps:

AECL falsely assured regulators two years ago that safety upgrades were complete.

The shutdown of the reactor was not reported for 12 days to the responsible cabinet minister, who waited three more days to start addressing the issue.

The government then intervened heavy-handedly, waiving the requirement for a safety review and firing the official who had demanded it, even though the review would have delayed the restart by only two days, according to AECL's own estimates.

The proposed inquiry, however, hardly qualifies as independent or comprehensive: AECL is deeply implicated in the events; the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has been neutered by the demotion of its courageous president Linda Keen; and Nordion is strangely left out of the equation.

In light of the gravity of the public health, public safety and governance issues implicated by this scandal, a much deeper investigation is warranted by Canada's Parliament and independent watchdogs.

As the facts now appear, Ottawa quashed safety regulators to restart a potentially risky nuclear reactor, imperilling its citizens for the benefit of a private company, despite the availability of backup isotope supplies from abroad.

Canadian citizens have a right to know why.

Alan J. Kuperman is an assistant professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, and a senior policy analyst at the Nuclear Control Institute in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Press Release - NDP candidate Rob Moir raises concern with Harper budget

3 MARCH 2008

Fundy Royal NDP Candidate and economics professor, Rob Moir, expresses concern with the third budget of Mr. Harper's minority government. After considering the budget for a few days, he finds little in the document that helps ordinary hard-working Canadians.

"There's a great deal of 'flash-in-the pan' about this budget," notes Moir, "but the picture is not at all focused. Numbers are bandied about in an attempt to confound the issue, but these are not numbers that help ordinary Canadians who work so hard for their paycheques."

Many speculate this muted budget was designed as a challenge to the Liberal government to call for a new election. Unwilling to proceed to the polls, Liberal MPs have been caught in a contradictory stance, simultaneously criticizing the budget yet arguing that it contains the essence of any Liberal budget.

NDP Leader Jack Layton points out, "For every one dollar the 2008 Harper budget allocates in new spending, it spends six dollars in corporate tax giveaways. Yet this budget fails to train a single doctor, make a single prescription drug more affordable or build a single unit of affordable housing."

Dr. Moir outlines some of the key components and omissions of Mr. Harper's 'Liberal-light' budget as it relates to the people of Fundy Royal, and New Brunswick as a whole.


The National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO) has denounced the budget noting that individuals earning $15,000 per year can expect $215 in reduced taxes in 2008-2009; while those earning $150,000 will pay $3,265 less in taxes.

"Mr. Harper has obviously forgotten our international committment to invest 0.7% of our gross national income toward the eradication of global poverty," says Moir. "We're talking 70¢ out of every $100. If Mr. Harper fails to see the humanity in this investment, then consider the returns from additional security and international goodwill."

A New Savings Plan

The budget offers Canadians the option contributing up to $5,000 annually in a registered savings account where interest, dividend, and capital gains income can grow tax-free.

"Let's look at the numbers," suggests Moir. "Suppose $5,000 is put away in an account that earns 5% - the interest accruing is $250. In the highest income bracket, this money would have been taxed at about 46%, which means a person saves just $115 in taxes. But, there's a more fundamental problem. As a professor with a self-employed wife and a young family, I know I can't afford to take advantage of this new savings vehicle; if I can't, I suspect few hard-working families can, given how much we're all feeling squeezed these days."

"This plan helps the rich escape from paying their fair share of taxes, increases the tax paid by the average Canadian family, and diminishes the services many Canadians use," states Moir.

Post-Secondary Education

Mr. Harper's budget pledges increases in scholarship funding and reforms to Registered Education Savings Plans. While these initiatives have merit, Dr. Moir contends that the budget ignores the root of the problem for Post-Secondary Education in Canada.

"Students gain security in scholarships and more flexible RESPs," he states, "but what they all need is an affordable education in the first place, and that simply means higher transfers to the provinces for post-secondary education."

Employment Insurance

The budget proposes the creation of a Canadian Employment Insurance Financing Board, a Crown corporation that will administer the EI program.

"I see the potential for improvements in the EI program by ensuring that surpluses are kept within the program," says Moir, "but I worry about what Mr. Harper might do to dismantle the program in the future. I see nothing in this budget for skills development, which we sorely need in New Brunswick with the struggles of the forestry industry. This need will continue once the 'boom-times' associated with Saint John's proposed energy hub are over."

Natural Resources & Agriculture

The entire forestry industry, so vital to the New Brunswick economy, will receive only $10 million over two years to promote sales overseas. It is not clear how fishermen and farmers in New Brunswick will fare under this budget.

"Dairy farmers in New Brunswick are rightfully concerned about Mr. Harper's past attacks on Canada's agricultural supply management system," comments Moir. "Who knows if he will come after the New Brunswick Milk Marketing Board?"

The Environment

Moir saves his largest criticism for the budget's environmental policy. He reminds people of the message of Sir Nicholas Stern, once Head of the Government Economic Service (UK) and past Chief Economist of the World Bank, that climate change is a serious economic issue with costs that quickly grow in the absence of any attempt to implement credible plans immediately.

"I like the new directed investments in R&D and the extension of the 50% capital cost allowance for the floundering manufacturing sector," says Moir, "but allowing firms in the oil sands in Alberta to write-off 100% of their capital costs immediately amounts to a transfer to Alberta (Mr. Harper's province), a subsidy to the super-wealthy, and a tax on the environment. The wealth goes to a few but all Canadians are forced to pay the environmental price. This just isn't fair to working people across the entire nation."

"Mr. Harper chooses to subsidize the Canadian nuclear power industry, which has been troubled of late, and to spend heavily on risky carbon sequestration research," argues Moir, "but invests nothing in energy conservation and can only afford to find money to research carbon taxes and emissions trading systems."

"Mr. Harper, I hope you are listening, because I might be able to save Canada $66 million or so," says Moir. "I worked in the McMaster Experimental Economics Lab, and that lab alone has produced 15 papers on the topic of emissions trading systems, including a 1999 paper I co-authored, 'A Laboratory Test of Canadian Proposals for an Emissions Trading Program.' The research is in; the systems work. What we need now is to begin implementation."

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Recent Letter - David Wilkins

This was published in the Daily Gleaner on February 20.

Distinctly un-Canadian

When U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, says our Prime Minister is the most powerful person in the world, I think we are meant to believe this is a good thing.

I, for one, am not impressed by such a statement.

Exceptional power requires exceptional responsibility. It is irresponsible and irrational to invest so much power in one person.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper received his mandate because ordinary Canadians no longer trusted the Liberals. Harper promised accountability and a more transparent government.

Now, Harper carefully manages his party to limit communication and ensure most government media relations are handled through the Prime Minister Office.

Harper runs his government with a fear-and-intimidation management style.

Non-partisan groups, such as Democracy Watch, have repeatedly pointed out Harper's failing record on accountability.

Wilkins may be correct in stating Harper is the most powerful person in the world, but many Canadians would agree this is not good for the Canadian public.

Indeed, it is distinctly un-Canadian!

Rob Moir

Clifton Royal, N.B.

Recent Letter - US Troops in Canada

This was published in the Telegraph Journal on 26 February. The line "Fundy Royal NDP candidate" was added by the paper.

What constitutes an emergency?

A Feb. 22 report in the Ottawa Citizen outlines an important change in Canadian sovereignty; on Feb. 14 the Canada and the United States "signed an agreement that paves the way for the militaries from either nation to send troops across each other's borders during an emergency."

On the face of it, this does not seem too alarming and could be seen as a formalization of relations between good neighbours. But, what exactly constitutes an emergency?

Stuart Trew, a researcher with the Council of Canadians asks in the original article, "Are we going to see (U.S.) troops on our soil for minor potential threats to a pipeline or a road?"

I wonder if this means American soldiers could be called into Canada if a labour dispute interrupted critical energy exports? Speculation aside, two issues are more immediately worrying. First, because the U.S. military refuses to let its soldiers come under foreign command, there is a question as to who will control these U.S. forces.

Second it seems that under Mr. Harper's regime such answers will be difficult to come by, for while the United States military posted information about the agreement almost immediately, neither the Canadian government nor the Canadian military have made an announcement.

I'm not sure what definitions of transparency and accountability Mr. Harper uses, but they certainly differ from mine.


Fundy Royal NDP candidate

Clifton Royal

A Recent Letter - Carbon Taxes

This was published in the Telegraph Journal on 22 February and Daily Gleaner on 26 February.

Carbon taxes way to go

I was very excited to learn that British Columbia has followed through and introduced carbon taxes.

As a person who has done research in this area, I was excited to see off-setting tax cuts mentioned. Economists refer to this practice as tax-shifting.

Firms, public relations companies, right-wing think tanks and some governments often focus solely on the increase in costs associated with improved environmental quality. They fail to mention the significant damages caused by loosely regulated emissions: climate change; increased demands on our health-care system adding to wait times; reduced productivity; lower crop yields.

Moreover, by stressing carbon taxes as an additional cost or tax or consumer burden, these groups scare the average hard-working consumer who believes we already pay too much tax.

It is great to see B.C. provide a workable solution. Now, are our Premier Shawn Graham and Environment Minister Roland Hache listening or will they choose to ignore this important opportunity?