Friday, April 30, 2010

Wyatt sees the writing on the wall

Russ Wyatt is not going to run for Mayor:
Winnipeg’s mayoral race is shaping up to be straight-ahead battle between Sam Katz and Judy Wasylycia-Leis, as Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt bowed out on Friday and Elmwood Coun. Lillian Thomas is expected to follow suit next week.
It was a natural move; it makes sense for him to get out now that Judy Wasylicia-Leis is expected to run. Curtis at Endless Spin Cycle points out that in the poll that Probe did for the Free Press Wyatt got only 7% support, compared to 36% for Wasylicia-Leis.

Owner of bridge scared of competition?

Sure looks that way:
Ottawa wants to lend $550-million (U.S.) to Michigan as the Canadian government seeks support for building a new bridge along the continent’s busiest commercial corridor, offering to help bail out a state ravaged by the auto sector’s slump.

Federal Transport Minister John Baird said Thursday that Ottawa is extending a lifeline to Michigan to jump-start the $5.3-billion megaproject called the Detroit River International Crossing, or DRIC.

But Patrick Moran, corporate counsel for Manuel (Matty) Moroun, the 82-year-old transport tycoon who owns the Ambassador Bridge that spans the Detroit River, said Canada is taking advantage of cash-strapped Michigan’s dire financial straits.

“Our state doesn’t have two nickels to rub together and we have crumbling roads all over, and yet our state is getting involved in building a new bridge,” Mr. Moran said in an interview. “Michigan is hard up for cash.”

The economic stakes are high – persistent bottlenecks on the Ambassador Bridge threaten to stall billions of dollars annually in trade. But Mr. Moran accused Canada of encroaching on Michigan's turf, warning that Ottawa will favour Canadians over Michigan residents for bridge construction jobs, and hundreds of Detroit homes are in line to be bulldozed to clear the way for the new Detroit-Windsor bridge.

He said Michigan shouldn’t be “selling out” its border to Canada when Mr. Moroun is willing to privately finance his own second span without dipping into the pockets of Canadian taxpayers.

From the Globe. Gee, do you think he might be worried about not collecting as much in the way of tolls? I'd think it would be better not to have both bridges owned by the same guy, no?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Construction begins on St. Joseph wind farm

Not without hurdles, but it's underway:

Construction has started on the St. Joseph Wind Farm after Manitoba Hydro announced they would loan Pattern Energy $260 million towards the $345 million project.

After years of delays and changes to the original plan, Pattern Energy will have 60 Siemens SWT-2.3 MW turbines producing 138 MW in operation by Christmas of this year.

"These things don't generally take more than six to 12 months to build," Colin Edwards, senior developer Canada said.

The construction may be quick but getting there was not. In 2007 the call for submissions was put out by Manitoba Hydro. In November 2008, they announced they would go with a bid by Babcock and Brown Canada to build a 300 MW wind farm. That deal never materialized after their Australian parent company faced financial distress. The North American wind division was turned into Pattern Energy, with many of the same names that were involved in the first proposal.

From the Altona Red River Valley Echo. Not a moment too soon -- we're going to need a lot more of this soon, especially once the flow rates of the Assiniboine, Saskatchewan, and Churchill rivers start to decline as the glaciers on the Rockies vanish. The more wind and solar capacity we have the better, because when it's producing power it will be possible to reduce the flow rate through the control structure at Jenpeg, thus keeping Lake Winnipeg as full as possible.

For those in doubt about public health care...

... Canadians live longer, on average, than Americans:
When it comes to differences between Canada and the U.S., there is one area at least where we can claim bragging rights. Canadians have the edge when it comes to life expectancy and health-related quality of life.

"Canadians live longer and healthier than Americans," said U.S. health economist David Feeny, lead author of a newly published analysis of a joint Canada-U.S. population health survey.

"Mortality rates are lower in Canada and the health-related quality of life - the quality of those years - is higher in Canada than in the United States."

In fact, the analysis of the 2002-2003 data shows a 19-year-old in Canada, for instance, can expect to enjoy 2.7 years more of "perfect health" than an American the same age, said Feeny, an investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research.

While populations north and south of the border share many similarities, including standards of living, Feeny said there are two distinct potential explanations for the gap in life expectancy and quality of life: access to health care and the prevalence of poverty.
From the Telegram.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wasylycia-Leis steps down

Well, it was widely expected, but it's now official. So far she hasn't declared her candidacy for mayor, but this is widely expected as well. I'd love to see her beat Sam; we'll have to see how it goes. Either way, big shoes to fill.

Milliken upholds supremacy of Parliament

Looks like a victory for the Opposition (and for parliamentary democracy):

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has lost his battle to keep documents related to the detention of Afghan detainees out of the hands of opposition members.

In a precedent-setting ruling Tuesday, Speaker Peter Milliken said the House of Commons has the right to request any documents it needs and that the government must turn them over or risk being found in contempt of Parliament.

Mr. Milliken gave both sides two weeks to reach a compromise. If none is obtained, the House of Commons could vote to find the government in contempt of Parliament.

From the Globe. And given the latest Harris-Decima poll, the Cons are likely a bit worried about a vote of no confidence.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Whither the Manitoba Liberals?

Or is that "wither"? They certainly aren't in very good shape right now. And now they're about to lose half their caucus when Kevin Lamoureaux steps down to run federally in Winnipeg North. Dan Lett thinks the party is in the worst shape it's been for quite some time:

How bad are things for the Grits? The most recent Probe-Free Press poll showed the Liberals with just 11 per cent support. It is not unusual for the Liberals to soar between elections into the high teens of support, only to fall back. Now, Liberals can't even count on these inter-election thrills.

Collaterally, Lamoureux's departure impacts the outcome of the next provincial election.

The NDP, under new Premier Greg Selinger, continue to hold a slim lead in opinion polls over Hugh McFadyen's Progressive Conservatives. The Tories desperately need a surge in Liberal popularity to eat away at NDP support, particularly in Winnipeg where the NDP wins most of their seats.

The loss of Lamoureux is bad enough. But it's even worse when you consider the Liberals likely won't retain the seat with another candidate. Lamoureux won this riding on his own, in spite of a troubled Liberal brand. Without him, the NDP will win that seat back.

There are two Liberals in the Manitoba legislature. Later this year or early next year, there will be only one. And unless there is a dramatic change in fortune, after October 2011 it is very likely there will be none.

From the point of view of an NDP supporter, this is a godsend, although if they win a couple more majority governments it will start to get embarrassing, kind of like the Alberta Tories.

On a side note, it seems kind of amusing to view Lamoureux as the Liberals' biggest asset, but he does have a certain appeal for his constituents. Having met him I can attest to the fact that he's actually very friendly and polite in person, though his conduct in the House is the source of a lot of mirth.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Full-body scanners 'useless': expert

Whatever else you might say about Israel, one thing almost everyone can agree with is that they are second to none with regards to airport security. So this is rather interesting:

OTTAWA -- Boasting he could easily slip through one of Canada's new full-body scanners with enough explosives to blow up a jumbo jet, a leading Israeli airport security expert says the federal government has wasted millions of dollars to install "useless" imaging machines at airports across the country.

"I don't know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747," Rafi Sela on Thursday told parliamentarians probing the state of aviation safety in Canada.

"That's why we haven't put them in our airport."

Sela, former chief security officer at the Israel Airport Authority and a 30-year veteran in airport security and defence technology, helped design the security apparatus at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport.

He told MPs on the House of Commons transport committee via video conference from Kfar Vradim, Israel, that he couldn't reveal how to get past the virtual strip-search scanners, but said he can provide briefings to officials with security clearance.

Right. So why are we paying for these things again?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Organic waste collection comes to Manitoba

Centralized composting is quite common in Ontario (including much of the GTA as well as Hamilton and Guelph) but it hasn't taken hold in Manitoba until now. Happily, though, a pilot project has started in Brandon, with the help of the provincial government. Funny thing is, Brandon is much more progressive on environmental issues than Winnipeg. I wonder why that is?

New kid on the block in UK politics

Well, he's not really new, having been leader of the Liberal Democrats for over two years, but for most of that time he wasn't really seen as a going concern. That may be changing:

A week ago this morning, it was still possible to refer to Nick Clegg as a fringe candidate, the nerdy leader of a third-place British party who could walk down city streets without being recognized.

What has happened to him in the past seven days has no precedent in British politics, and few in elections anywhere. You probably have to reach to the world of reality television, where fellow Briton Susan Boyle rose, in similar one-night fashion, from spinsterdom to celebrity.

As of Thursday, Mr. Clegg, leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats, is the most popular politician in Britain, with his party either leading or tied with the Tories throughout the week. An Ipsos MORI poll Wednesday showed his party tied with the Conservatives at 32 per cent, with Labour at 28 per cent – a doubling of the Liberal Democrat standing last week. Other polls had his party ahead.

“We have never seen anything like this sort of an instant rise before in the history of British elections, and it means that the entire system has changed, quite literally overnight,” said Bobby Duffy of the London office of polling firm Ipsos MORI. “What had been a fairly staid election to choose between Gordon Brown and David Cameron has suddenly sparked into life, and nobody knows where things will go now.”

From the Globe. If Clegg manages to take power, or even win the balance of power in a minority parliament, he could leave a permanent mark on British politics. After all, the Liberal Democrats have advocated electoral reform for many years; a switch to PR would have a dramatic effect on all future elections.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

National carbon calculator (UK)

The good folks at the Guardian (h/t Marc Lee at Progressive Economics) have come up with a neat little web app where you have to adjust sliders to try to reduce Britain's CO2 emissions by 80%. It shows how you have to balance electricity supply and demand, and how much of a reduction in travel and consumption would be required. It's quite challenging. And Marc does say this:
They even share the back end spreadsheet, so we may have to mash up a Canadian version soon.
Looking forward to that. In some ways, Canada has it better; we have far more hydroelectric capacity (not to mention solar, given that in most of this country you actually see the sun). On the other hand, our cities are separated by distances that the average person in the UK (or France or Japan, for that matter) can hardly imagine, and thus our transportation costs (for people or other materials) will be much higher. And then there's heating costs...

Speaker to rule on government's conduct in detainee scandal

Speaker Peter Milliken will rule shortly on whether the Cons are in contempt of Parliament:

Either Thursday or next week, House Speaker Peter Milliken will rule on whether Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is in contempt of Parliament.

If Mr. Milliken finds in favour of the opposition parties that made the claim, then thousands of pages of heavily censored documents could be made public, showing whether the government and armed forces knew they were sending detainees to be tortured in Afghan jails.

If he rules in favour of the government, an already powerful executive will grow yet more powerful.

“It’s huge,” said Errol Mendes, a professor of law at University of Ottawa and constitutional expert. Centuries of precedent dictate that Parliament is supreme in holding the government to account, he observed.

“If the Speaker rules against the opposition motions, it would not be too hyperbolic to say we have changed our system of governance,” he maintained. “The executive would no longer be accountable to the House of Commons.”

From the Globe. To my mind this seems like a pretty clear case, despite the Cons' protests about "national security" (which, as I've said before, most likely means Harper's job security). There's a complication, though:
Mr. Milliken’s word is not the final word. Technically, he will rule only on whether the government appears to be in contempt. If he finds against the government, a parliamentary committee will thrash out the issue, and the matter will be brought back to the House for a final vote.

Rather than release the material, the Conservatives could force an election by making that vote a matter of confidence in the government.

The question then becomes, how would an election arising from this play out? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On the Fraser Institute's latest garbage

Yesterday the Fraser Institute, with much fanfare from the media, published a report claiming that taxes for the average Canadian have increased by 1,624%. Sounds bad, eh? Well, this is the Fraser Institute we're talking about, so perhaps it's worth looking closer at their figures. Actually, since I'm lazy, let's just look at what others have already pointed out. Devin Johnson has this to say:

First of all, the Fraser Institute's numbers do not account for inflation. According to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator, the price of a basket of goods increased by 624.84% between 1961 and 2009. Using the Fraser Institute's own numbers, this means that we should expect, all else being equal, that the tax bill of the average Canadian family would increase from $1,675 in 1961 to $12,141.08 in 2009. In fact, according to the Fraser Institute, the average Canadian family paid $28,878 in total taxes in 2009. In inflation-adjusted terms, this represents an increase of 237.85% (or, about 5% per year). When accounting for inflation, the Fraser Institute's figure of 1624% is off by about a factor of seven.

Nevertheless, a 237.85% increase in Canadians' real, inflation-adjusted tax bills is still a shocking increase, right? Well, not really. Once again, according to the Fraser Institute's own numbers, the average Canadian family's income roe by 1383.5% between 1961 and 2009. If Canadian families paid the same proportion of their income as taxes in 2009 as they did in 1961, we should expect the average tax bill to be $23,173.63 in 2009. In fact, according to the Fraser Institute, it was $28,878. This means that the actual average tax bill in 2009 was about 24.6% higher than expected. This is still an increase, but not nearly as shocking as the 1624% figure bandied about by the Fraser Institute. This figure is also consistent with the Fraser Institute's finding that tax liabilities rose as a proportion of total income from 33.5% in 1961 to 41.7% in 2009.

Hmm. Not so shocking, is it? Devin goes on to point out quite a few other things as well; meanwhile Curtis at Endless Spin Cycle points out what we're getting for the taxes we're paying:
- Today we're paying for universal health care
- Today we're paying for a school system that's expected to do far more than teach the 3 R's
- Today more people than ever are attending university and college - not just because they have the opportunity to do so, but because it's a necessity for most jobs today
- Today we're building massive bridges and freeways in our cities, not just slapping down some pavement on an old gravel road and calling that our highway system
Hmm. Taxes don't seem so bad, eh?

Bank of Canada approaches its day of reckoning

Canada's central bank has announced that it will not be raising rates yet. However, sooner or later this will change. The thing is, setting the rates is a tricky balancing act. If they don't raise them eventually, inflation will become excessive; on the other hand, if they raise them too soon or too much, they will choke off the recovery. After all, high rates mean more of people's previously disposable income will be going towards paying their mortgages and credit cards, and businesses that might want to expand will face higher borrowing costs. And this is likely coming within the next couple of months, whether we like it or not.

Unfortunately, rising oil prices are likely to complicate matters further. The thing is, expensive oil is both inflationary and anti-growth, so we could see a burst of stagflation within the next few years. Hang on; it's going to be quite a ride.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A story from "liberal" California

This is disgusting:
Clay and his partner of 20 years, Harold, lived in California. Clay and Harold made diligent efforts to protect their legal rights, and had their legal paperwork in place—wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other. Harold was 88 years old and in frail medical condition, but still living at home with Clay, 77, who was in good health.

One evening, Harold fell down the front steps of their home and was taken to the hospital. Based on their medical directives alone, Clay should have been consulted in Harold’s care from the first moment. Tragically, county and health care workers instead refused to allow Clay to see Harold in the hospital. The county then ultimately went one step further by isolating the couple from each other, placing the men in separate nursing homes. Ignoring Clay’s significant role in Harold’s life, the county continued to treat Harold like he had no family and went to court seeking the power to make financial decisions on his behalf. Outrageously, the county represented to the judge that Clay was merely Harold’s “roommate.” The court denied their efforts, but did grant the county limited access to one of Harold’s bank accounts to pay for his care.

What happened next is even more chilling: without authority, without determining the value of Clay and Harold’s possessions accumulated over the course of their 20 years together or making any effort to determine which items belonged to whom, the county took everything Harold and Clay owned and auctioned off all of their belongings. Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from his home and confined him to a nursing home against his will. The county workers then terminated Clay and Harold's lease and surrendered the home they had shared for many years to the landlord.

Source (all emphasis is in the original). Would that happen in Canada? I honestly think not (one of a diminishing number of things for which we can still feel genuine pride in our country). However, we shouldn't be too smug about even this. After all, it's not because we're intrinsically better people, but merely because our constitution is worded in such a way that implies the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation. Were it not for that, I wouldn't be surprised to see abuses like the above in some parts of this country (including some places a few kilometres outside the Perimeter).

Canadians' attitudes on crime are at odds with their other social values

A recent poll is the latest to suggest that Canadians are more vindictive now than a decade ago:

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, an aging population and a Conservative government have changed the way in which Canadians look at crime and punishment, with a new poll suggesting we are slightly more socially conservative than we were 10 years ago.

The EKOS survey shows that although a modest plurality of Canadians (36 per cent) support prevention as the main goal of the criminal justice system, those who support punishment as priority are on the rise – 30 per cent now, up from 22 per cent a decade ago. (Prevention used to garner 44 per cent support, down 8 percentage points over the past decade.)

“There is a tougher outlook on crime, and punishment takes a more prominent role in views of the underpinnings of the criminal justice system than it did a decade ago,” pollster Frank Graves says.

“This is why it is increasingly perilous for a politician to be caught on the wrong side of the ‘tough on crime’ debate, even if their policy position is more rational.”

So far, this is in line with what's been reported previously. What's interesting, though, is that crime seems to be the only major issue where people are becoming more socially conservative, despite what others have suggested:
Although, Mr. Graves found that Canadians line up with the Manning Centre’s views on crime, they do not in some of the other areas. His polling on abortion rights, for example, found that 52 per cent of Canadians are decidedly pro-choice. And 53 per cent of Canadians support same-sex marriage.

Overall, Mr. Graves says, Canadians are becoming increasingly progressive with the exception of crime. Indeed, the emphasis on punishment is much stronger among older, more poorly educated Canadians.
Interesting. I think that the main factor here is probably the focus of the news media, especially commercial TV and tabloid newspapers. Almost anyone in the know about these things will tell you that crime has been declining for some time, but if you took the Sun seriously you'd be scared to step outside your door. There's a simple reason for this; crime makes good copy. It's exciting (heck, I'm as guilty as the next person of clicking on lurid crime stories if I come across them in a scan of the news), and it's a way of playing people's emotions without getting them riled up over anything that might affect the bottom line for the media outlets and their advertisers. After all, almost nobody's in favour of crime except for the criminals, and even they have their doubts when it's someone else doing it, so you're not going to rock the boat writing a story about it. The effect of this, though, is that most of the news gets filled up with crime stories, leading the casual viewer/reader to think that it's everywhere. And when people get scared, their attitudes understandably tend to harden.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Some comments on those green shoots

We're hearing everywhere that the economy is now recovering. Hugh McFadyen and his motley crew are using this as ammunition against the Selinger government, saying that there's no reason to run deficits any more, because the recession is supposedly over. Now technically that may well be true, since recessions are generally defined solely in terms of the overall growth rate of the economy. And there have been gains in jobs lately, too -- but what sort of jobs are they? Armine Yalnizyan at Progressive Economics has some comments:
Forget total employment numbers, it’s the types of jobs coming back that count.

There is a shadow side to this recovery that may undo it in the end. Uncertainty is fast becoming the new normal in the labour market, and that has long-term implications for aggregate demand, household indebtedness, and the rate of defaults on mortgages and credit cards.

The latest Labour Force Survey results show that — though there are still 253,000 fewer jobs than when the recession began in October 2008 — employment growth continues its slow path upward. As Erin Weir noted on Friday, this month’s rising head count is driven by part-time jobs.

By March 2010 there were 47,800 more part-time jobs than when the recession began, but we are still down 300,000 full-time jobs. That mirrors another shift from stable to unstable jobs: more temporary jobs, fewer permanent ones.

And that's based entirely on "pure" economics, and doesn't take into account the fact that oil is likely to get a lot more expensive soon. Throw in that element and things could get quite unpleasant indeed.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Panic as US transportation secretary acknowledges existence of cycling


WASHINGTON — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a weekend bicyclist, might consider keeping his head down and his helmet on. A backlash is brewing over his new bicycling policy.

LaHood says the government is going to give bicycling – and walking, too – the same importance as automobiles in transportation planning and the selection of projects for federal money. The former Republican congressman quietly announced the "sea change" in transportation policy last month.

"This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized," he wrote in his government blog.

Not so fast, say some conservatives and industries dependent on trucking. A manufacturers' blog called the policy "nonsensical." One congressman suggested LaHood was on drugs.

The new policy is an extension of the Obama administration's livability initiative, which regards the creation of alternatives to driving – buses, streetcars, trolleys and trains, as well as biking and walking – as central to solving the nation's transportation woes.

Source. Nothing shocking here; no plans to ban cars, just no more unduly favouring them over bikes:
"It didn't seem that controversial to me," he wrote in a second blog item. "After all, I didn't say they should have the only voice. Just a voice."
Nonetheless, the usual suspects are saying crazy things in response:

The National Association of Manufacturers' blog,, called the policy "dumb and irresponsible."

"LaHood's pedal parity is nonsensical for a modern industrial nation," said the blog. "We don't call it sacrilege, but radical is a fair description. It is indeed a sea change in federal transportation policy that could have profound implications for the U.S. economy and the 80 percent of freight that moves by truck."

More of this nonsense can be found at's own site.Given that bikes and trucks serve entirely different purposes, and thus aren't in competition with each other, this is a pretty strange thing to say. What, exactly, are they afraid of? Perhaps a clue can be gained by something a friend of mine attributes to an economics professor at the U of M -- "People with cars buy more stuff". So, do they fear that if things are favourable enough for bikes and public transit that fewer people need cars, consumer culture will decline and the manufacturers will suffer? Or do they take the Limbaughs and Becks of the world seriously, and think that this is all part of some nefarious plot?

Rush Limbaugh on the West Virgina mine disaster

His comments are predictable:
Limbaugh often attacks unions. On Friday he attacked the union for not making sure safety concerns were addressed in the mining disaster in West Virginia. Unfortunately for Rush and the miners there is no union. The present boss advanced by busting the union some time ago. Maybe Rush should be blaming the boss for the lack of action on safety concerns. From this site. You would think that Rush would have the funds to hire a few researchers to get facts straight. Maybe he figures this will just get him more publicity. Maybe he is like his comrade Glenn Beck who came out an said that he did not give a crap about the political process. Entertainment and making money is what is important.
From here, via captainsblog (in a comment to a Blaque post).

The latest twist in the detainee scandal

Richard Colvin, the diplomat who says he warned the government that detainees were being tortured, is being barred from discussing material that could corroborate his story:

Franz Kafka would have been proud to have penned an episode from Tuesday's Afghan detainee hearings where the government sought to undermine testimony from one of its own civil servants.

The catch, for the civil servant, is he can't talk about information the government has censored. Even if it could vindicate him.

As readers will know, the Harper government has censored diplomat Richard Colvin's email records and won't even let the Military Police Complaints Commission see the unredacted versions. This is the civilian-run watchdog charged with reviewing Canada's record on Afghan detainees.

Just before a couple of prickly exchanges take place (transcript below), Department of Justice lawyer Alain Préfontaine argues Mr. Colvin did not provide clear warning to Ottawa in 2006 that Canadian-transferred detainees were at serious risk of abuse. Using the censored version of the email records, the government lawyer says Mr. Colvin's warnings weren't that urgently or sharply worded.

Defending himself, Mr. Colvin says the censored portions of his emails bear out his assertion that he offered significant warnings. He is barred from speaking about these blacked out passages, however.

Source. Let's hope the public doesn't forget this come election time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

More oil news...

Further to yesterday's post about peak oil, the International Energy Agency is very concerned about what will happen as the price rises:
Recovery in the world's biggest economies could be jeopardized if crude oil prices stay over $80 (U.S.) per barrel, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday.

The IEA also reported that OPEC posted the first “significant drop” in output in March in more than a year – falling 190,000 barrels per day to 29 million barrels a day – largely due to a near 10-per cent drop in Iraqi output.

The agency, the energy arm of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a grouping of the world's richest nations, said concerns remain that global oil markets are “overheated,” with crude around $85 per barrel.

“Ultimately, things might turn messy for producers if $80-100 (per barrel) is merely seen as the new $60-80 (per barrel), stunting economic recovery while prompting resurgent non-oil and non-OPEC supply investment,” the Paris-based IEA said in its monthly oil market report.
From the Globe. The use of the word "overheated" is interesting, as it would seem to suggest that the current oil prices don't reflect fundamentals. But if peak oil is as close as yesterday's post suggests, oil might well be undervalued. Also interesting is the comment about "resurgent non-oil and non-OPEC supply investment"; they seem to think this is a bad thing. Admittedly, some of it is (given that it could include stuff like the tar sands, coal liquefaction, etc) but this could also include proper investment in better alternatives. I have my doubts that the IEA wants this, though. Indeed, they've been accused of distorting their numbers to avoid rocking the boat, presumably because it might lead to investment in alternatives before the established energy companies can corner the market.

My suspicions about Kevin Lamoureaux prove true...

In this entry I speculated that Lamoureux's slip of the tongue where he spoke of "the residents of Winnipeg North" might indicate that he has aspirations to run for Judy Wasylycia-Leis' seat if and when she vacates it to run for mayor. Well, it seems I was right:
Manitoba Liberal MLA Kevin Lamoureux said he'll seek his party's nomination in Winnipeg North if Wasylycia-Leis leaves.
From the Winnipeg Free Press. Could he win? I'd like to think not, but some people familiar with that riding think he could.

Monday, April 12, 2010

U.S. troops overwhelmingly support clean energy legislation

The heads must be exploding at Fox News:
Recently, a persuasive new poll conducted by, shows that 73% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans support clean energy and climate change legislation.

In addition, 70% believe that ending our dependence on foreign oil is critical to our national security.

“This poll confirms what we always knew was true. Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan know first-hand, the destructive effect our dependence on oil has on our national security, and on the battlefield,” said Jon Soltz, Iraq War Veteran and Chairman of
Source. Makes sense to me...

Peak oil... when again?

One thing pretty well everyone can agree on is the fact that the amount of oil in the ground is finite. The big unknown, of course, is how much there actually is, and thus when demand will outstrip supply. Well, America's finest military minds fear that it may happen soon:
The US military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact.

The energy crisis outlined in a Joint Operating Environment report from the US Joint Forces Command, comes as the price of petrol in Britain reaches record levels and the cost of crude is predicted to soon top $100 a barrel.

"By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day," says the report, which has a foreword by a senior commander, General James N Mattis.

It adds: "While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India."
From the Guardian (h/t Mega in this iTulip thread). Of course, they're particularly concerned with the national security implications, just like the CIA's Center on Climate Change and National Security.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Nygård documentary

A few months ago, you may recall this post about Peter Nygård's attempts to block the airing of a CBC documentary about him. And in the last few days, my site meter has gone apeshit with hits, mostly from people searching for info on that doc. So I figured that having mentioned it, I should actually watch it (it's on the CBC website). It's pretty hard hitting, that's for sure. The harassment (both general and sexual) claimed by some former employees is shocking. I can certainly see why he didn't want it to air...

Conservatives to campaign on killing $30-million subsidies to political parties

This is not good:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives will campaign on killing the $30-million per-vote-subsidy to political parties in the next election, the Prime Minister's Office confirmed.

But University of Calgary professor and former Tory strategist Tom Flanagan, the Conservatives' former national campaign manager, says if the party successfully eliminates it, other changes need to be implemented either by raising donation limits or allowing Canadians to volunteer their tax dollars to political parties.

"It's hard to find an approach that would yield the amount of money that's equal to the subsidies unless you go back to some level of corporate donations or raising the level on individual donations. The other one is a taxpayer check-off system, which is used in the United States," said Prof. Flanagan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) former chief of staff. "But those systems aren't that productive. They do raise some money, but the best estimate is that in Canada, a taxpayer check-off system might raise, based on the American experience, $4- or $5-million, but not $30-million a year."

From the Hill Times. The proportional funding system is a reasonably fair way of ensuring that all voices get heard. Of course, the only voices the Cons want to be heard are those of folks who are sufficiently well off that they have the ability -- and desire -- to donate money to the Cons. I suspect that if this goes through, we'll see a return of corporate donations. Unfortunately, the right has been fairly successful in spinning this issue as a "vote tax" (at least in Manitoba), so this may be a good strategy for them, unless the rest of us can get our act together to present the other side.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

In case you thought Helena Guergis was getting too much attention...

... we'll turn our attention to her husband:
OTTAWA—A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper denied that ex-MP Rahim Jaffer had brought access to the leader of the country to his shady business associates.

“Any accusation that the PMO has opened doors for Mr. Jaffer or his business associates is false and it is also absurd,” PMO spokesman Dimitri Soudas said in an interview Thursday.

The Toronto Star published an investigative report Thursday detailing what happened the night Jaffer – a former MP from Edmonton and the husband of the Conservative Minister of State for the Status of Women, Helena Guergis – was arrested and charged with drunk driving and cocaine possession last September.

The prosecution ended up dropping the more serious charges after having decided there was not enough evidence to win at trial and Jaffer instead pleaded guilty to one count of careless driving.

Source. And who was he meeting with?

The report placed Jaffer at a booze-soaked dinner at a Toronto restaurant with financier Nazim Gillani – under investigation by police and the federal taxman for fraud or tax evasion at the time – some business associates and “three busty hookers”.

Unaware that Jaffer had been stopped by the Ontario Provincial Police and arrested sometime after he left the restaurant, Gillani sent an email to his associates the next morning boasting the ex-MP had given them access to the prime minister.

“Mr. Jaffer has opened up the Prime Ministers’ office to us and as a result of that dinner – he today advised me that he is just as excited as we are and joining our team seems to be the next logical step,” Gillani wrote to a dozen close associates, although Conservative insiders have told The Star the former elected official had no such access.

The Star also reported Jaffer had been handing out the business cards he had as an MP.

When asked whether he was concerned over allegations Jaffer had pretended to hold such sway, Soudas said: “I can tell you that the doors to the Prime Minister’s Office are padlocked to anybody who wishes to peddle influence.”

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said the Jaffer revelations raised serious questions about "potential misconduct" and was a matter not just for Jaffer but for the Prime Minister himself.

"These are very serious allegations that go to the heart of the integrity of the Conservative government," Ignatieff said after giving a speech in Mirabel, Que. "The question is, 'Who did Mr. Jaffer see in the Conservative government, what promises did Mr. Jaffer make, what did he propose to deliver to his clients?"

Weirder and weirder. I wonder how much damage this will do to the government? We can only hope...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Winnipeg mayoral poll

OK, this is old news (hey, I was taking a break, so sue me) but this past Saturday a poll came out in the Free Press on the declared and hypothetical candidates for mayor, with the following results:

Sam Katz: 51%

Judy Wasylycia-Leis: 36%

Russ Wyatt: 7%

Dave Angus: 5%

Lillian Thomas: 2%

Hmm. Seeing that brings to mind this article from the Uniter a couple of weeks back:
Normally, I would be overjoyed to hear that Judy Wasylycia-Leis is even considering a run for mayor. Having met her on a few occasions, I know that she is unbelievably qualified to run this city. But as history shows, anyone taking on the incumbent faces an uphill battle. Only once in Winnipeg’s history has a sitting mayor been defeated, and in the last election Katz won by more than double the vote of his nearest rival.
On the other hand, if anyone can defeat Katz, Wasylycia-Leis has a better chance than most. Should she run? I don't know.

Incidentally, yesterday's Hansard includes this intriguing tidbit (scroll down to Kevin's question about the community health centre):

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Inkster): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health.

For well over 30 years the Nor'West Community Health Centre has provided valuable services to thousands of residents in Winnipeg's North End, and, in fact, beyond.

Mr. Speaker, there's been an expectation for the last number of years that there would be an access centre which would be able to expand medical services to the residents of Winnipeg's North End, and there's a sense of frustration that the government is once again overlooking the needs of Winnipeg's North End.

My question to the Minister of Health: What can she tell us today, given the budget documents that have been released, that could provide some encouragement to the residents of the Winnipeg north in regards to this access centre that they have been promised for a number of years already?

My emphasis in the last paragraph, of course. I can't help but think someone is itching for a by-election.

What we're protecting in Afghanistan

Hamid Karzai, whose illegitimate election last year should have been the last straw for NATO, has thrown a major hissy fit over the very modest pressures that we've been putting on him to behave himself:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened over the weekend to quit the political process and join the Taliban if he continued to come under outside pressure to reform, several members of parliament said Monday.

Mr. Karzai made the unusual statement at a closed-door meeting on Saturday with selected lawmakers – just days after kicking up a diplomatic controversy with remarks alleging foreigners were behind fraud in last year's disputed elections.

From the Globe. So let's get this straight. We're propping up an illegitimate leader, risking our own troops' lives, killing civilians, and turning over prisoners to authorities who torture them, and now this arsehole threatens to join the Taliban?? And we're doing this for what exactly? To uphold democracy? See Karzai's election above. To protect the rights of women? A laudable goal, but maybe we should be working on this at home first. The pipeline? Probably a major reason. To save face? Probably another major reason. But even if we accept these last two goals as legitimate, we can only save face, or build the pipeline, if we can win the war. My opinion? We can't. The USSR was a huge country, with a lot fewer supply line problems than NATO (thanks to being right next door to them), and yet they lost. We will too, mark my words.

ETA: The coup in Kyrgyzstan (h/t Blaque) may help to speed things along, by depriving NATO of the use of a crucial air base.