Last night, I decided to head downtown the NDP campaign launch to hear Jack Layton speak, to local NDP candidates, and their supporters. (I was also caught on tape by Gloria Galloway of the Globe and Mail) For those of you who know my politics, you will likely be surprised to hear that went to NDP event at all. I was little surprised too.
I decided to go for three reasons. First, I am long-time supporter of Linda Duncan’s, having known her long before she was NDP candidate. In fact, Linda was first people involved in environmental issues met after moving to Edmonton. Second, I have become increasingly alarmed by some of statements made by some of Ms. Duncan’s caucus colleagues with respect to the oilsands and with respect to Alberta. Thomas Mulcair, an MP the Montreal Riding of Outremont, has referred the oilsands as “the worst pollution on the planet.” I have great deal of respect for Mr. Mulcair, and was unabashed fan of his during tenure as Quebec Minister of Environment, but statements such as those detract from his otherwise good ideas relating to internalizing the costs of environmental damage the oil sands (and presumably on industries as well). Third, and most of interested to hear how Mr. Layton would handle these issues in launching his national campaign here in Edmonton. I am glad I went, but no closer to being NDP supporter today was yesterday. That probably surprises no one.
Since I am mainly environment- and energy-focused, I was interested to see how Mr. Layton would deal with some issues he and his caucus have raised recently. In his morning kick-off speech before loading up the plane for Edmonton, Mr Layton promised to,”stop the subsidies to big polluters and invest that money to foster the new energy economy.” In his speech last night in Edmonton, you would given the oil sands and climate change had disappeared from agenda. Any discussion these “big polluters” was absent, and Mr. Layton only made mention of Mr Harper’s, “environmental record,”, which drew cheers and jeers from gathered faithful. The climate had clearly stopped changing, perhaps due to earth hour.
Mr. Layton made no mention of other (often contradictory) energy policies such as ensuring low gasoline and heating fuel prices for consumers, or a punitive cap-and-trade system on industrial emissions. Denis Bevington, MP for the Western Arctic who was also present last night, has written in the past about the potential for a cap-and-trade system to, “crack down on big industrial polluters,” and “generate billions annually.” Mr. Layton made no mention of plans tackle GHG emissions, despite recently supporting the Climate Change Accountability Act which, again according to Mr. Bevington, “sets science-based (GHG) emission targets matching the European Union’s.” Putting these statements together implies a cap-and-trade policy which would lead to carbon prices upwards of $200/ton (according to Pembina Institute modeling work) and generate and re-distribute up to $70 billion per year from the sale of emissions permits. I am very much in favour of carbon pricing, although not in favour of particular policy. Regardless, to suggest $70 billion per year emissions reduction and income redistribution policy, it would seem like the time to address it would during election campaign. To put that into perspective, total government revenue for this year is projected to be $218 billion, so $70 billion is far from small potatoes.
The rest of speech was devoted to health care, daycare, helping poor familes and seniors make ends meet and, somewhat surprisingly, Edmonton’s EXPO bid. I would not have imagined to NDP in favour such events, not surprised that Linda Duncan was strong advocate for bringing such event to Edmonton. So, no big surprises, and few disappointments.
I expect and hope at NDP candidates face some tough questions at doors of Edmonton voters as party’s platform and vision for Alberta really is. Without anything are un-funded promises of increased social programs, will hard to gain traction in province that fears taxes almost as much as un-repaired potholes. Albertans should be worried about prospect of cap-and-trade system “cracking down” on province’s industrial sector, while distributing revenues to social programs which benefit other region disproportionately. While the C.D. Howe Institute show that aggressive GHG policy need not harmful to Albertans, are questions should asking about the design of such system given the possibility that NDP and the Liberals could hold balance of power, along with the Bloc Quebecois (the Liberals are proposing cap-and-trade regime is time around, by way). I hope Albertans will ask some these questions of NDP candidates, and the asking them of Ms. Duncan.