Friday, February 22, 2008

The Harper Conservatives: Enemies of Science

An editorial in the international journal Nature has called the Harper Conservatives "dismal" when it comes to recognizing the role of science in Canada.

Reprinted from Nature 451, 866:21 February 2008
Concerns can only be enhanced by the government's manifest disregard for science. Since prime minister Stephen Harper came to power, his government has been sceptical of the science on climate change and has backed away from Canada's Kyoto commitment. In January, it muzzled Environment Canada's scientists, ordering them to route all media enquires through Ottawa to control the agency's media message. Last week, the prime minister and members of the cabinet failed to attend a ceremony to honour the Canadian scientists who contributed to the international climate-change report that won a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
Harper sees himself as the leader of a 'global energy powerhouse' and is committing Canada to a fossil-fuel economy. More than 40 companies have a stake in mining and upgrading the bitumen from the oil sands
in Alberta and churning out 1.2 million barrels a day. This activity generates three times as much greenhouse gas as conventional oil drilling. Emissions from Canada's oil and gas industry have risen by 42% since 1990.
Confirmation of CPC disregard for science was reinforced earlier this week in a Lancet article published by B.C. physician Dr. Julio Montaner and his colleagues. In it, Health Minister Tony Clement was lambasted for ignoring nearly 2 dozen peer-reviewed scientific articles on the efficacy of the INSITE safe injection program for intravenous drug addicts in favour of a single critique in an online journal funded by a lobby group (Drug Free America Foundation) and the RCMP. Over at Liberal Arts & Minds, KNB has written a terrific blog about this, and I encourage you to surf on over and have a read.

In any case, none of this should come as a surprise to Canadians. But it should be a profound embarassment to the Conservative Party, which has chosen to populate itself with a bunch of regressive ideologues, some of whom believe that man and dinosaur once co-existed like the Flintstones. Willllmaaaaaaa!!!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The BC Budget: It's A Start

As a Vancouverite, I had been anticipating a carbon tax as proposed by the Campbell government prior to yesterday's budget announcement by Finance Minister Carole Taylor. And, as expected, the "Green Budget" delivered just that, along with a promise that revenues generated from the tax will be returned in varying forms of incentives and other tax relief. Some budget highlights:
    • Beginning July 1, B.C. will begin phasing in a carbon tax on all fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, coal, propane and home heating fuel.
    • The rate starts at $10 per tonne of carbon-equivalent emissions and will rise by $5 per year for the next four years.
    • As of July 1, there will be a 2.41¢ increase per litre in gasoline. By 2012, it will be 7.24 cents per litre.
    • For diesel and home heating oil, it works out to 2.2 cents per litre, rising to 8.27 cents by 2012.
    • The tax will generate about $1.85 billion over three years.
    • Two-thirds of the money raised in the first year will come from business.
    • The tax is to be revenue neutral and none of the money raised through the carbon tax will go toward program spending.
Personally, I'm ok with this budget. The price hike at the pump will hurt a bit, but frankly I drive a small, fuel-efficient car - and I don't even drive it that much. The $100 carbon tax rebate that will be paid to all BC residents this year will more than cover any added expenses. Is it perfect? No, but it seems a decent start to officially addressing the issue of fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions. And it's far more progressive than anything the federal government has done to date.
In its last budget, the [BC] government announced the most aggressive carbon emission reduction in North America, vowing to cut emissions by one-third within 12 years....Last month in Vancouver, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he was not in favour of provinces taking patchwork action, preferring a national approach to cutting emissions linked to global warming.
But as we all know, waiting for the Conservatives to take action on greenhouse gases is like Waiting for Godot. So the BC budget may not be perfect...but it's a start.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Prentice Bitchslapped by Bonner

Kudos to Susan Bonner for holding Jim Prentice to account on today's edition of Politics on CBC. I almost felt sorry for Prentice out there. It must be hard having to fill in for an absentee Finance Minister on marching orders from Grand Wizard Harper to disseminate lies and disinformation to the general public. Today, the CPC propaganda continued unabated, with Prentice trying his best to lie through his teeth about not only a Liberal spending platform that has yet to be released, but also (incredibly) about the previous Liberal government record with respect to deficit reduction and balanced budgets.

When Prentice smeared Liberals as "tax & spend", and tried to credit Harpo with being the first to balance budgets, Bonner quickly jumped in to point out that it was successive Liberal governments under Chretien and Martin that delivered balanced budgets and paid down a deficit in excess of 40 billion dollars left by Conservative Lyin' Brian Mulroney. Despite being challenged by such facts, which are a matter of public record, Prentice huffed and puffed and responded that "we could debate these things all day".

As an incredulous Bonner further pressed him on how one could "debate" the facts, Prentice's response was to say that during the previous Liberal governments, he credited "the Canadian taxpayer" for balancing the budget. He neglected to explain how precisely the taxpayer accomplished this all by his lonesome. Nor did he delve into explaining the overall benefits of a Harper GST cut that seems to have impacted few except for businesses and other organizations that are pocketing millions in the form of pennies per transaction not passed on to consumers of most small ticket items purchased every day.

A decent rebuttal by John McCallum followed, but the bitter taste of Prentice's douchebaggery lingered in my mouth. What kind of a person appears on national television with nothing but a pack of lies and a total lack of integrity? If I were Prentice, I'd be writing an angry letter to Mssrs Harper and Flaherty tonight. It doesn't speak much for Prentice that he has been chosen by his masters to be thrown to the wolves in this manner. If the PM and Finance Minister want to dig in the ditch of disinformation and revisionist history, they should grab some shovels and do some of the dirty work themselves.

Postscript: Can we just put Don Newman out to pasture? Susan Bonner appears to be a superlative host in nearly every way.