By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 14, 2012 - 0 Comments
I sat down with NDP leader Thomas Mulcair in the leader of the opposition’s office yesterday. Here is a transcript of our conversation, slightly abridged and edited.
How do you see the last year for you and the NDP? Do you feel you’re winning? Do you feel you’re getting somewhere?
We’re doing well. And the Abacus poll was confirmation of that … I dare say that we’ve been through a rough 18-month cycle. I mean, we started off in 2011 with a huge high, May 2. We realized then … It was interesting. I don’t think I’ve told too many people this story. I sat down with Jack shortly after, like two, three days after the election and when we became official opposition, he was asking me to become opposition House leader, it was a great feather in my cap. And then he said something to me that was quite interesting, he said, you know, this is a huge challenge. And I was just expecting him to be so effusive with the breakthrough and everything and he said, no, no, this is going to be a huge challenge. So then the huge challenge became all the bigger with his loss. And then we had to really work hard through a long, seven-month leadership where we were missing a lot of our frontbenchers who were in the campaign and then we had to rebuild.
When I held the little press conference up in Toronto after the leadership, the next day, I used an expression that came to spontaneously, I said, we’re going to have a cascading transition under the sign of continuity. So I was so lucky, like somebody like [chief of staff to Jack Layton] Anne [McGrath] stayed with me long enough to hand off to [current chief of staff] Raoul [Gebert], overlapped with Raoul … So a couple of the other changes that took place were like that. We brought in a few people, the core team you still recognize when you see them around us. And so it’s been a huge challenge in terms of the structure and the organization, but some of the good points for me after becoming leader: in August I was doing my parish visit in Quebec, I would be in places like Vercheres—Les Patriotes, where Sana Hassainia is our MP, and be in a community hall on a Sunday morning with several hundred people who had all paid as part of a fundraiser, but she had municipal officials there, you know the mayors and the councillors, she had community groups, she had the schools and stuff like that. They’re getting settled in, they’re putting down roots. The same day I was at a corn roast for Helene LeBlanc and she had about 600 people and a lot of the cultural communities, so they’re setting down roots, they’re doing their fundraising, they’re getting well known in their communities, they’re in their local papers, so that part’s coming together.
Come this spring, we’re pivoting, right? We’re going to be entering the third year. And so the consolidation phase has to be finished. We’ve got to start the preparatory phase for the next campaign. Continue…
By Stephen Gordon - Monday, September 17, 2012 at 9:46 AM - 0 Comments
I didn’t think it was possible for the climate change policy debate to drift even further from reality than it already had. But a series of posts by Maclean’s Aaron Wherry—most recently here and summarised here—has proven me wrong. The politics of climate change has always required a certain suspension of disbelief. But the Conservatives’ attempt to portray the NDP’s climate change policy as the equivalent of a carbon tax and the NDP’s indignant rebuttal to the effect that their policy is in fact a cap-and-trade model have advanced the transformation of the file into a form of kabuki.
To a first approximation, cap-and trade is the equivalent of a carbon tax. Here is the Econ 101 version of how the two work:
By John Geddes - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 3:24 PM - 0 Comments
Recently I had the interesting experience of sitting across a board table from a formidable expert on energy and environmental policy as he confidently predicted that putting a price on carbon is an inevitable, indispensible tool in combating climate change.
This expert was neither NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, who is vilified by the Conservative party in a new attack ad this week for espousing carbon pricing, nor David McLaughlin, head of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the federal advisory body the Tory government is summarily disbanding for having had the temerity to advocate carbon pricing.
No, the confident, Swiss-accented voice I listened to in that Ottawa hotel meeting room overlooking the Rideau Canal belonged to Peter Voser, the chief executive officer of Royal Dutch Shell, the world’s second biggest company (after only Wal-Mart in revenues, according to Fortune, and, in case you were wondering, a notch above Exxon Mobil).
Among other things, Voser was telling me about Shell’s plan to embark on a fairly ambitious project at its Alberta operations in what’s called carbon capture and storage, or CCS. With CCS, instead of releasing carbon dioxide from oil and gas operations into the atmosphere, where the emissions contribute to global warming, that CO2 is converted into liquid and pumped underground to be sequestered indefinitely in porous rock formations.
It’s not a climate-change panacea, but a promising concept. “The technology could—,” says the International Energy Agency in this report, “if governments commit to specific policies—account for nearly one-fifth of the emissions reduction required to cut [greenhouse gas] emissions from energy use in half by 2050.”
But why would any company go to the considerable expense of CCS when it could just continue releasing CO2 up smoke stacks for free?
Voser’s answer is that carbon emissions won’t be free forever: governments must put a price on them. Shell is so certain of this, he told me, that the company already assumes that a $40-per-tonne price will be imposed within three decades, and therefore doesn’t proceed with any project that wouldn’t remain profitable when that extra price is imposed.
I included part of his answer in a Maclean’s interview published earlier this month. But given the renewed debate around Ottawa these days—especially with the release of that anti-Mulcair ad— thought more might now be interesting. “If you want to achieve certain climate change goals, CCS has to be part of that solution,” he said. “Therefore I think it is up to industry and to the governments to make this happen, and you need the right frameworks to actually do so. So you need a carbon price mechanism.”
I asked why Shell would press ahead with emissions reduction projects before actually being forced to by binding regulation. After all, he has shareholders to worry about and profits to maximize, right?
“As with many other research and development initiatives which we have, we want to push this early to gain the experience,” Voser said. “There are not many places in the world where you have [effective carbon pricing] now. But we think in 30 years it will be part of the business model.”
His viewpoint is widely shared. The logic behind carbon pricing—most likely either a tax on fossil fuels or a cap-and-trade system that allows companies to sell emission permits back and forth—is powerful. Government would make it expensive to pump out CO2, but leave it to private-sector players to figure out the cheapest ways to cut emissions. All other regulatory approaches look clumsy by comparison. This is basically the case argued for several years by the National Round Table on Environment and Economy, much to the annoyance of the Conservatives.
They are now taking a surprisingly rigid position against any form of carbon pricing. Based on what Environment Minister Peter Kent recently told CBC’s Evan Solomon, the Tories no longer oppose only the broadest form of carbon tax (as proposed Stéphane Dion is his disastrous 2008 election run as Liberal leader), but also the cap-and-trade option, which use to be in the Conservative platform (it’s on page 32 here).
I should stress that Voser did not wade in on Canadian politics, and did say he supports the federal government’s push to streamline environmental approval processes for energy projects. Still, on the fundamental question of carbon pricing, it’s worth noting that the government isn’t just scrapping with opposition politicians and environmental policy wonks—they’re also standing against the corner-office perspective of at least one of the very biggest players in the global energy business.
By Erica Alini - Friday, February 24, 2012 at 5:53 PM - 0 Comments
Yesterday marked a rather unremarkable chapter in the ongoing PR battle between the Harper government and much of the rest of the world around Alberta’s oil. On Thursday the EU held a vote on whether to label the oilsands as a dirtier kind of feedstock, a move that would make fuel derived from it less competitive compared to oil refined from “cleaner” kinds of crude. It was a deliberation among technical experts–not elected officials–and it failed to reach the qualified majority required under the EU’s mind-boggling voting system anyway. The vote that matters (by ministers of EU countries) will be held in June.
Nonetheless, both sides sized this virtually irrelevant step in the EU’s Byzantine legislative process to make some noise in the press–there was also news this week that Ottawa threatened a trade war if Brussels goes ahead with the purported fuel-labelling. So it’s as good an opportunity as any to ask: Does Europe have a valid point about the oilsands?
Brussels’ Fuel Quality Directive, as the measure is called, is far from perfect. Andrew Leach, of the University of Alberta, points out that the EU’s classification of different types of fuel, which is based on definitions used by the U.S. Geological Survey, makes some iffy distinctions between oilsands and other kinds of heavy oil that are likely just as polluting. Trying to classify fuels as more or less dirty based on the type of crude oil they came from, concludes Leach, isn’t the best way to go: “The EU FQD, as proposed, will treat some high emissions crudes as low emissions crudes, and they could greatly improve the policy by initially including all … heavy oil production at a high benchmark.” Even Alberta’s Pembina Institute notes that the EU could fine-tune things by “differentiating in the directive between crude supply types (e.g. for heavy oil).”
By Andrew Coyne - Friday, December 11, 2009 at 11:10 AM - 88 Comments
Andrew Coyne chimes in on this whole “climate change” mess
As the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference gets under way in Copenhagen, the pages of what one might call the skeptical press are filled with scandalized accounts of the many ways the assembled delegates will be—get this—wasting carbon.
A report in the Sunday Telegraph reckons the total number of limousines commissioned for the event “has already broken the 1,200 barrier,” while as many as 140 private jets are said to be flying VIPs in and out of the city. An editorial in the National Post laments that delegates will be treating themselves “to jumbo Indian Ocean shrimp, Norwegian salmon and fruits and vegetables from South America, Africa and Southern Europe, all flown in daily to ensure maximum freshness.” The columnist George Will predicts the delegates’ collective carbon footprint, estimated at 41,000 tonnes of CO2, “will be the only impressive consequence” of the gathering.
You see a lot of this kind of thing. “That Al Gore, preaching restraint on the rest of us, but have you seen the size of his house?” It’s supposed to highlight the hypocrisy of global warming activists. But all it really does is tacitly endorse the doomsters’ most alarmist assumptions. The planet will not be consigned to a warming hell because Al Gore lives in a big house, or because the UN delegates eat too much Norwegian salmon. You can say it’s hypocritical, but only if you accept that stopping global warming requires us to abstain from imported foods, or large houses, or flying. It doesn’t.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 4:02 PM - 0 Comments
UPDATE: Clarification from David McGuinty on the broooooadcast: “Look, there is no plan right now.”