By Heather Scoffield and Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press - Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – President Barack Obama’s State of the Union message to act swiftly on…
OTTAWA – President Barack Obama’s State of the Union message to act swiftly on climate change should be interpreted as a challenge to Ottawa as well, says the U.S. ambassador to Canada.
Obama used Tuesday’s speech to present Congress with a choice: either agree to market-based solutions to climate change, or else the president will use his executive powers to achieve the same result.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Ambassador David Jacobson said the message to move more aggressively against climate change was meant as much for Canada as it was for the United States.
“We all need to do as much as we can. And that is true in your country and in mine,” Jacobson said.
“Obviously the more that the energy industry — whether it is the oilsands in Canada or the energy industry in the United States, or any place else — the more progress they can make to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to reduce their consumption of water, to other environmental consequences, the better off we all are.”
It was the signal many environmentalists in Canada have been waiting for.
“I see opportunity,” said Megan Leslie, the NDP’s outspoken environment critic.
“Canadians have not been well-represented by our government on action on climate change. Fortunately for Canadians, though, the Harper Conservatives will have little choice but to follow suit or risk our trading relationship with our biggest partner.”
U.S. action on climate change has been piecemeal over the past few years as Obama’s initiatives met with stiff Republican resistance. Ottawa has vowed to move no faster than the U.S. for fear of risking Canada’s competitive advantage.
Indeed, Conservative MPs have made a daily sport out of criticizing carbon taxes and cap-and-trade schemes.
But now that Obama has suggested he wants to crack down on emissions, either through a market-based approach or regulations, Canada is going to have to regroup, said Alex Wood, senior director at Sustainable Prosperity, an Ottawa-based think tank.
“The question is whether we will be able to keep up,” he said. “We may have to pay a price for not having a serious policy around climate change.”
Ottawa has opted to take a regulatory approach to emissions, imposing restrictions on industry sector by sector in a process that is taking many years to unfold and decades to implement. At last count, federal and provincial measures taken together still only get Canada half way to meeting its emissions reductions targets by 2020.
That leaves the as-yet-unregulated oil and gas sector to make up most of the difference, and negotiations with that industry and Alberta are proving difficult.
Still, the initial government reaction to Obama’s climate change agenda was nonchalant.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said the president’s speech contained a little bit for everyone on all sides of the climate debate.
“And therefore I don’t feel any different than I did before the speech,” he said.
While Environment Minister Peter Kent has suggested in the past that Canada might consider a cap-and-trade system to control emissions if the United States moves in that direction, Oliver was dismissive of that idea Wednesday.
“This is quite speculative. It doesn’t look like Congress would be supportive of that. They’ve rejected it historically, and we’re not in that space.”
Still, there are signs federal ministers are feeling some pressure to up their game on the emissions front, especially with the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta oilsands through the United States hanging in the balance. Oliver and Kent have both recently spoken about the need “to do more” on Canada’s environmental credentials.
Obama did not mention the pipeline in Tuesday’s speech, but he faced calls from organized labour and the petroleum industry on Wednesday to approve the project immediately — even as protesters in the U.S. geared up for a demonstration against it this weekend.
In a preview of further protests planned for Sunday, prominent U.S. environmental leaders — including Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club — were arrested Wednesday after tying themselves to the White House gate.
Activist Bill McKibben, actress Daryl Hannah, civil rights leader Julian Bond and environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. were also arrested, along with several dozen other activists.
Washington-based stakeholders from both sides of the border increasingly suspect Obama is going to try to extract from the oil industry and Republicans some kind of quid pro quo — either a carbon-pricing scheme or limits on greenhouse emissions from existing power plants in exchange for approving Keystone.
“He’s a deal-maker,” said a source close to the Keystone discussions not authorized to speak to the media. “He wants to get something in return, whichever way he goes.”
Such chatter underlines the fact that Canada and the U.S. are “on very different trajectories” since there is no indication that Environment Canada would entertain putting a market price on carbon, said Clare Demerse, director of federal policy for the Pembina Institute, an energy and environment think tank.
Obama’s new-found determination on greenhouse gases will no doubt prompt him to assess the Keystone pipeline through an environmental lens, Demerse said. If that pipeline is filled with oilsands bitumen, the implications for emissions are major, both in Canada and the U.S.
Jacobson would not predict when Obama’s Keystone decision will come, but he said the president’s focus on global warming “very much mirrors where the Canadian people are” on energy and climate issues.
“We need to strike the right balance between our need for energy on one hand and safe and secure sources of energy. Clearly Canada is one of those (sources), and our need to deal with the environmental consequences particularly of fossil fuels.”
— With files from Lee-Anne Goodman in Washington.
By Emma Teitel - Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 9:57 AM - 0 Comments
I heard Fran Lebowitz speak at Massey Hall last week about how much she hates strollers, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and audiences with low standards. She blames the latter on the Oprah effect—the impulse of the modern American audience to rise in applause of anything and everything. Nowhere in history (besides, perhaps, on the Oprah Winfrey show) was this phenomenon more pervasive than last night during Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address. Except for Ted Nugent or John Boehner, the live audience was perpetually on its feet. Even Paul Ryan couldn’t resist applauding this one liner — that or he really enjoys veiled digs at his own policy proposals:
“I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep – but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.”
Three more observations about the State of the Union: Continue…
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 6:49 AM - 0 Comments
The Official Republican State of the Union Response by Marco Rubio (as prepared for …
The Official Republican State of the Union Response by Marco Rubio (as prepared for delivery):
Good evening. I’m Marco Rubio. I’m blessed to represent Florida in the United States Senate. Let me begin by congratulating President Obama on the start of his second term. Tonight, I have the honor of responding to his State of the Union address on behalf of my fellow Republicans. And I am especially honored to be addressing our brave men and women serving in the armed forces and in diplomatic posts around the world. You may be thousands of miles away, but you are always in our prayers.
The State of the Union address is always a reminder of how unique America is. For much of human history, most people were trapped in stagnant societies, where a tiny minority always stayed on top, and no one else even had a chance.
But America is exceptional because we believe that every life, at every stage, is precious, and that everyone everywhere has a God-given right to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them.
Like most Americans, for me this ideal is personal. My parents immigrated here in pursuit of the opportunity to improve their life and give their children the chance at an even better one. They made it to the middle class, my dad working as a bartender and my mother as a cashier and a maid. I didn’t inherit any money from them. But I inherited something far better – the real opportunity to accomplish my dreams.
By Aaron Hutchins - Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 12:09 AM - 0 Comments
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 11:29 PM - 0 Comments
In its rhetoric, Barack Obama’s Tuesday State of the Union address sealed the four-year transformation of the United States into a society well to the left of Stephen Harper’s Canada.
Never mind the president’s closing peroration in favour of substantial new firearm regulation — misleading to cross-border comparisons at any rate, as the U.S. starts from such anarchy on firearms that they would have a long way to regulate before they caught up to the Canadian firearms regime, even after Parliament abolished the long-gun registry last year. Nor am I really thinking about his call for tax increases as a component of deficit reduction — simple arithmetic when the books are as out of whack as they are in Washington. There was also Obama’s passionate plea for serious policy to regulate carbon emissions in a bid to control global warming. His federally mandated increase to the minimum wage with an added cost-of-living index. And the bit that I found most striking because it was least expected and, if it were carried out, perhaps most ambitious: universal preschool for all four-year-olds, an extension of public schooling that would be hard to imagine in Canada, where Harper cancelled the federal-provincial daycare agreements he inherited from the Paul Martin Liberals. Continue…
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 11:22 PM - 0 Comments
During his State of the Union address, Obama made the case for action on climate change but proposed few concrete plans. The president said his administration would speed up approvals of domestic oil and gas permits to take advantage of America’s domestic energy boom.
He called for a “market-based solution” to climate change and referred to a past attempt at cap-and-trade legislation. But such legislation is likely a non-starter in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives — so Obama also said he willing to take unilateral executive actions “to reduce pollution.”
He didn’t give specifics about what unilateral steps his administration could take without legislation passed by Congress, but environmentalists have been asking the administration to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants — especially those that burn coal — currently the largest source of carbon emissions in the U.S.
Industry says that the costs of upgrading existing plants will be too high — but there is speculation a carbon rule or standard could be the trade-off for an eventual decision to approve the Keystone XL pipeline (which was not mentioned at all in his speech).
Here is what Obama said about energy in his speech:
“After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.
“But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.
“The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
“Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.
“In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.
”Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.”
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 9:21 PM - 0 Comments
As Prepared for Delivery –…
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, fellow
As Prepared for Delivery –
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, fellow citizens:
Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this Chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress…It is my task,” he said, “to report the State of the Union – to improve it is the task of us all.”
Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home. After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in twenty. Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before. Continue…
By Emily Senger - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 11:25 AM - 0 Comments
A preview of what the U.S. president must do on Tuesday night
1. Economy, economy, economy
With U.S. unemployment remaining at 7.9 per cent and an economy that shrank in last quarter of 2012, Obama will have to present a strong economic plan. Watch for themes including infrastructure, manufacturing, clean energy and improved job training and education, which a White House aide flagged as areas that the president will address.
Obama was criticized for failing to address economic issues in a meaningful way during his inauguration speech. Now is his chance and he’s going to take it. “I’m going to be talking about making sure that we’re focused on job creation here in the United States of America,” Obama told Democrats at a gathering last week, reports ABC News.
2. Striking the right tone Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
Barack Obama, last night. “My message is simple. It’s time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America.”
Jack Layton, last March. “As prime minister, I wouldn’t use your hard earned tax dollars to reward companies that ship jobs to the States or overseas. I’ll target investment to create jobs right here at home.”
By Jason Kirby - Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 9:11 AM - 63 Comments
Why are no U.S. leaders willing to tackle the fiscal crisis?
Standing before Congress and 43 million TV viewers last week for his state of the union address, President Barack Obama reached half a century into the past to convey the challenges facing his country in the future. “This,” he said, “is our generation’s Sputnik moment.” But if the space race, kicked off by Sputnik’s launch in 1957, was the signature challenge of a generation, it’s the rebuilding of American economic might that is the challenge now. And the enemy isn’t the Soviets, it’s the country’s towering mountain of debt: US$14 trillion and counting.
Whether Obama’s speech writers realized it or not, something else quite remarkable happened in 1957 that, while long forgotten, is far more relevant to the debt debate today. That year America balanced its books for the second year in a row. It would mark the last time the U.S. would post back-to-back budget surpluses. Instead, the U.S. has sunk deeper into debt with every passing year, save two rare exceptions: 1961 and 2001, when the dot-com bubble artificially boosted tax revenue that year.
For half a century America has lived far beyond its means. In the same way overextended households, which recklessly used the equity in their homes as ATM machines, finally collapsed under the weight of their mortgages and triggered the Great Recession, the U.S. has mortgaged its future to pay for wars, lavish health care and social security programs, government employee pensions and ever lower taxes. But many economists believe there’s a limit to how long Washington can go on borrowing before it faces a sovereign debt crisis of its own, plunging markets into chaos and triggering a crisis that will make the Great Recession look like a minor stumble. We’re already seeing several heavily indebted U.S. states like Illinois, California and New Jersey pushed to the brink—New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has talked openly about the state going “bankrupt.”
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
Hope comes to the U.S. economy, while a suicide attack devastates Russia
Hope, for a change
Barack Obama used to have some powerful political magic, getting millions of Americans to buy into his vision of change. But a deep recession gave rise to Tea Party-style fury among voters and dealt the Democrats serious setbacks in the November elections. Now, just two months later, there are suddenly signs of hope. The economy is slowly improving and Obama’s poll numbers are on the rise. In this week’s state of the union address, he promised to keep the focus on jobs. We’ll see if Americans are ready to believe again.
Glad to go
South Sudan’s overwhelming vote for independence might displease Khartoum, but it’s a key step to ending one of Africa’s bloodiest, most intractable conflicts. Two million people have lost their lives in the war between the country’s mostly Arab rulers and rebels in the south, and there was no sign that the two sides could peacefully coexist. Enormous issues remain outstanding, not least the two sides’ long-standing dispute over oil rights. But this clear expression of democratic will brings U.S.-led efforts to find a permanent resolution one step closer to reality.
Heartbeat of Hunan
Last year, for the first time, General Motors sold more cars in China than in the U.S., and enjoyed large sales spikes in Russia and Brazil, too. An increase of 29 per cent—2.35 million cars and trucks—in China helped the U.S. automaker close the gap on world No. 1 Toyota, and GM recalled 750 laid-off workers to its Flint, Mich., truck plant. At a time when the effect of Chinese exports is front of mind, it’s good to see a North American company holding its own in such a key sector of manufacturing.
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 7:45 AM - 35 Comments
I have the same reaction to every State of the Union address. It’s a vicarious Catonian revulsion, the grief and horror of the old Roman. (I’m a monarchist, but I’m a monarchist for us.) As everyone writing on the occasion of a SOTU observes, the president’s traditional harangue to the houses of Congress is said to be licensed by Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution:
[The President] shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.
Even hard-bitten originalists tend to read this passage for sonority rather than meaning. All it says is that the President must furnish data to Congress and suggest legislative activity. It doesn’t say anything about doing so annually, though that became the habit almost immediately. It doesn’t say anything about giving information and advice in the form of a speech, let alone presenting oneself to Congress. Early presidents did so, but Thomas Jefferson pulled a face and refused to play ball. He fretted that a knockoff of Westminsterian Throne Speeches would “familiarize the public with monarchical ideas”, and he didn’t want representatives of the other branches of government to be intimidated by the person of the chief magistrate. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 12:51 AM - 71 Comments
I’m not asserting some enduring national character difference when I point out that Canada doesn’t have a political leader or a business leader right now who could begin to attract as much attention by giving a speech as Steve Jobs and Barack Obama did today. Nor indeed do we have a leader in either field, for the moment, who would even bother to try.
As I’ve pointed out before, Stephen Harper is the third prime minister in a row who will not make a big speech on television to put his case before the nation unless it’s his own political hide that’s in the balance, as Paul Martin did in 2005 and Jean Chrétien, perhaps a hair more nobly, did a week before the 1995 referendum. On the business side, try to imagine even the relatively flamboyant Mike Lazaridis or Jim Balsillie giving a big public speech to launch a new BlackBerry product. They never do. Continue…