Nuclear Energy Debate ~ Ontario Election 2011

Over the heads of the audience; Satnik stands front and center, flanked by Ron Oberth seated at left and moderator Bob Jonkman standing at right.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the “The Role of Nuclear Power in Ontario’s Clean Energy Future: A Debate” put on by Fair Vote WRC and CAPP (Canadians Advocating Political Participation).

Since it was part of Fair Vote Canada‘s first annual Democracy Week, I planned to take still photos both for my blog and for my Fair Vote WRC and CAPP friends. But it was only while sitting in the front row listening to introductions that I spontaneously decided to record the debate.

looking at the back couple of rows of audience; the Fair Vote table on display behind

I’m still learning Free-Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) so I didn’t know if I’d be able to edit video at all. If I’d known it would be important to share the video, I wouldn’t have snapped noisy photos during the debate. But it was only listening to the information and arguments of the debate that I realized just how important the issue is in the here and now.

photographed over the audience from the back of the room
The Role of Nuclear Power in Ontario's Clean Energy Future: A Debate

Right now, Ontario is at a crossroads. If we proceed as we have been, Ontario will soon decommission some existing nuclear reactors and will then have to make substantial new investments.  Part of the urgency to decide how to proceed now is that it takes a lot of lead time – decade or so – to build new reactors. The question is, is it necessary?

That nuclear energy is a necessary component to meet Ontario's engery needs.

Mr. Oberth answers questions seated at the table in the question period following the debate
Ron Oberth, nuclear energy expert

The Role of Nuclear Power in Ontario’s Clean Energy Future: A Debate

Ron Oberth of The Organization of CANDU Industries (OCI) gave an excellent presentation, explaining both the history and the current system. Currently Ontario’s energy generation revolves around the nuclear power “baseload.” This is the foundation of the energy grid which powers Ontario.

In fact, our system is so efficient that more than once Ontario has had to pay neighbors to take surplus power off our hands. You can’t instantly turn off a nuclear reactor, and too much unused energy could burn out part of the grid.

Kind of makes you wonder why consumers need smart meters.

Derek Satnik, renewable energy expert at Mindscape Innovations, gave a thorough run down of alternative energy options. The most surprising thing was that Ontario is at a point where it is possible to wean our province off nuclear energy through a transition into the emerging alternative energy industries.

Mr. Satnick answers questions seated at the table in the question period following the debate
Derek Satnik, renewable energy expert

Although in its infancy, wind power provides about 1% of the power to the grid. Solar power is another incremental player. Derek Satnik explained the potential: a federation of renewable micro-power generation facilities could generate a more robust baseload by virtue of flexibility.

But new clean energy resources can’t be added to the grid without reducing some resources. And right now, we have safe and clean energy sources that the government won’t use, because there isn’t room for it on the grid. Right now we could replace nuclear power with green renewable energy.

Three wing Windmill head against a baby blue sky.

I’m sure we have careful and capable people watching over our nuclear power plants. Even so, Ontario is very lucky not to have had a 3 Mile Island.
Or a Chernobyl.
Or a Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Because Nuclear Power is not 100% safe.
Accidents happen.
And thirty years later, we still have no way of making nuclear waste safe; our only disposal method is to bury it.

Nor is nuclear power cheap. We are still paying off nuclear facilities that are no longer in use. Instead of signing on the bottom line to build more expensive nuclear facilities, Ontario could make the transition to less expensive safe alternative energy, and simply phase out our use of nuclear power.

This is the most important issue in this election.

windmills atop the roof of the mall

Watch the debate for yourself:

My 32 minute video isn’t perfect. But you should see it now. Before we elect a new government.

You can watch it on YouTube:

Or download the high resolution version from the Community Video section of Archive.org.

More photos from the debate are available here.

Penelope: “You can’t really vote for a kid, but you can vote for her future.”

It seems Fair Vote and CAPP aren’t the only folks who think that Ontario’s Clean Energy Future ought to be an issue during this electoral campaign. Eight year old Penelope has joined the provincial candidates on the campaign trail, criss crossing the province and asking candidates questions about the environment. Penelope4ontario.ca is leading a campaign to direct voter attention to environmental issues. The idea is that we need to think about the environment we will bequeath to our children when we cast our votes.

Besides being a little girl, Penelope is, of course, an actress, fronting the campaign put on by environmental consortium Environmental Defence. Still, she knows her stuff. Kitchener-Center NDP MPP Candidate Cameron Dearlove had a good chat with young Penelope. Of course, I’m sure that it helps that the environment is one of the NDP platform’s strengths.

The best thing on Penelope’s web page was the Environmental Report Card which compares all the party platforms on environmental issues.

Environment Forum

looking over the audience to the head table where Green Candidate Mark Vercouteren has the mic

head and shoulders shot of candidate with microphone
Mark Vercouteren, #kitcen GPO

Last week Waterloo Region played host to a cross-riding Environmental Forum in at the Rockway Mennonite Church in downtown Kitchener. This forum allowed candidates from various parties to discuss their party’s environment platform.

head and shoulders shot of candidate with microphone
Eric Davis, #kitwat OLP

Kitchner-Centre Green Party Candidate Mark Vercouteren, Kitchener-Waterloo Liberal Party Candidate Eric Davis and Kitchener-Centre NDP Candidate Cameron Dearlove, all had an opportunity to explain their position to local voters and to answer questions following the debate.

head and shoulders shot of candidate with microphone
Cam Dearlove, #kitcen ONDP

Unfortunately, there was no representative from the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party at this Environmental Forum. Did the party decline to attend because they have no environment platform to speak of? I noticed the OPCP was the only party that declined to participate in the Penelope4ontario.ca poll as well. This makes me a bit nervous.

I think it is disturbing that the Ontario Conservatives are so cavalier about Ontario’s energy future. Even if the Progressive Conservative Party is convinced nuclear power is both safe and the best source for Ontario energy, can we afford to cavalierly forge ahead when nuclear power is also the most terribly expensive option? Particularly since it’s getting more so?

Groups of people chatting.

Still, it is especially difficult to take a hard line about nuclear costs, because we can’t afford to be cutting corners when a nuclear mistake cand render large parts of our land uninhabitable. I always thought one of the most important Conservative party cornerstones was fiscal responsibilty.

More problematic is Kitchener- Centre candidate Dave MacDonald, the local TV weather man who has achieved notoriety during this election campaign for expressing disbelief in climate change.

The twin issues of energy and environment are crucial to Ontario’s continued health and prosperity. Candidates who can’t find the time to carefully consider these issues are not candidates I want to see making these decisions for our province. Our future is at stake.

Ontario’s electoral system is every bit as broken as the Federal system. But the very fact that ever vote is not equal makes it even more important to cast our votes, and just as important, to cast them for the candidate we want to elect.

Flying againsy a blue sky with a few whisps of coud.

Thursday, October 6 is the Ontario Election.

#VoteON



Note:
Additional photos from the Environmental Forum are available here.

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“And the Winner is….”

Heads up Waterloo Region: Tonight Fairvote WRC & CAPP are putting on what looks to be a pretty interesting meeting.
(I hope to make it out, even though I haven’t managed to finish proofreading my novel, Inconstant Moon)

CAPP/Fair Vote

“Making Democracy Work” event, Thursday April 28, 7 PM

at the Adult Recreation Centre 185 King St. S, Waterloo

In the meantime, since I’m working on my novel, I thought it might be the perfect time to publish Anita Nickerson’s article about one of the alternate voting methods to Canada’s inequitable first-past-the-post that has recently been the subject of a fair bit of discussion. If you attend the “Making Democracy Work” event you’ll have a chance to meet Ms. Nickerson.

Canadian flags fly

The Alternative Vote

by Anita Nickerson, FairVote, Waterloo Region

Alternative Vote – also called “preferential voting”, “ranked voting”, “run off voting” or “priority voting” – is another “winner take all” system, very similar to our current system of First Past the Post.

Proponents of Alternative Vote like to claim that it is more democratic than our present system because the riding winner would have to achieve “more than 50% support”. It gives voters the illusion of having more say, because now we get to “rank the list of candidates” or “rank our preferences.”

Well, I like to rank things. I like to be asked what I think, especially about important issues. So do many Canadians. Marketing companies know this: that’s why consumer surveys and polls are so popular.

In reality, in exchange for making more marks on a piece of paper, research on how Alternative Vote would work in Canada shows that with AV we get will get:
The Alternative Vote

  • a) Exactly the same winner as we get now with First Past the Post in most ridings.

and

  • b) An even more distorted overall result, in which the number of seats a party wins is even further out of alignment with the percentage of the popular vote they earned. In the ridings where second choice rankings do influence the winner, this system would only help the Liberal Party pick up even more seats compared to their percentage of the popular vote, and form even phonier “majorities” in future.

AV does nothing to help smaller parties win any seats to reflect their percentage of the popular vote. Votes for smaller national parties are eliminated early on with AV. It would hurt the NDP. As with our current system, most voters in a riding will still be left represented by someone they don’t want.

How can this be? Didn’t all those check marks and X’s somehow influence the outcome for the better? Well, no.

Let’s take a hypothetical example scenario. Suppose my current riding is held by a Liberal candidate who won the race last time with 39% of the vote and has been entrenched for years. I rate my preferences #1: Green, #2: NDP, #3 Independent, #4, Liberal, #5 Conservative. (You could change the order of my higher preferences and it wouldn’t matter).

Imagine piles on a table – each candidate has a pile of votes. First step in an Alternative Vote system is to eliminate the candidate with the lowest percentage of the popular vote from the race entirely. Bye, bye, Independent. Those votes are then transferred to the piles of the candidates representing the second choices of those voters. Now we repeat the process. Bye, bye, Greens. Those votes are then transferred to the piles of the candidates representing the second choices of those voters.

The process continues and continues until one candidate accumulates more than 50% of the pieces of paper in his pile and is declared the winner. Surprise, surprise! It’s the Liberal. And now, instead of taking the riding with 39% of the vote, he can publicly claim to have “more than 50% public support.”

“Preferential voting” is a wee stretch of the meaning of the word “preference.” In the scenario above, my fourth or fifth choice, which I would characterize as “bad” or “very bad”, is hardly “preferred”. But I am now being told I somehow had more say in the outcome.

Again, Alternative Vote delivers us up largely the same results, with most voters in a riding being represented by someone they don’t want. It entrenches strategic voting, as voters try to place their “lesser evil” choice somewhere prominent in the mix to avoid a worse outcome.

In Australia, parties coach their supporters who can’t figure it out how to strategically rank the choices by giving them cards with ranked lists to take to the polling station.

AV simply reinforces a two party system, giving undeserved bonuses to the Liberal party, as they would be the second and strategic choice of many more voters than the others. Of course, the Liberals know this, and that’s why they are pushing it.

There have been many independent commissions and non-partisan citizen’s assemblies which have studied Canada’s democracy in depth and recommended reform. The most notable of these was the Law Commission of Canada’s Report, “Voting Counts, Electoral Reform for Canada”, which recommended a mixed member proportional system with open lists. Not a single commission or citizen’s assembly has recommended AV. Of the 103 members of the impartial Citizen’s Assembly in Ontario, an honest process where ordinary citizens spent months learning about electoral systems, only 3 citizens chose Alternative Vote.

In trying to explain to voters what AV really means, we are up against a marketing machine with more cash and a big audience. We must tell our friends and neighbours:

Don’t be fooled by convincing sound bites. For the sake of Canada’s democracy, we can do better.

tattered flags



More info: http://s.fairvote.ca/files/AV-backgrounder-august2009_1.pdf?q=files/AV-backgrounder-august2009_1.pdf

Official Language Blues: If I ran the zoo… er country

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada" It is a major failing of our education system that all school children are not offered the “other” official language in school.

Of course the federal politicians can say, “Education is a Provincial responsibility”.

This is nothing but a pure cop-out.

Canada has two Official Languages.

If federal funding was forthcoming the provinces would jump at the chance to introduce education plans to comply. It seems to me that the problem is that the Federal Government is simply not willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Vancouver Olympics 2010 logo

Personally, I am disappointed that the Bloc Quebecois have not pushed for this. In a perfect world, even if the Bloc manages Quebec succession at some point, would it not be easier for a separate Quebec to deal with a Canada where there isn’t this knee-jerk language war?

From everything I have read and heard, when children learn a second language in childhood, it makes learning additional languages later much more attainable. And breaking down barriers to communication is always a good thing.

It is inexcusable that the Olympic Games are not fully accessible in both Official Languages. We should all be ashamed of that.

BON COP BAD COP: A graphic description of the great divide between our official languages.

Canada is known to be a nation rich in resources, but our greatest resource, which is also the one that is most often overlooked is our children.

Both English and French are our official languages as Canada is officially a bilingual country. I’ve just been told that Canada is merely “institutionally” a bilingual country, and that only at the Federal level in a CAPP Facebook discussion group. That may be the way it is, but it should not be.

In a perfect Canada all kids would be bilingual. So that eventually all adults would be bilingual. It is ridiculous that that still has not happened.

Whole School Portrait - 1930's Rural Ontario
English immersion - 1930's Rural Ontario, Whole School Portrait

My father didn’t know a word of English when he started school in the 1930’s. We’ve always teased him about the trace of accent we can still hear, but in retrospect maybe it isn’t a rural Ontario accent but a rural German accent. Our parents made it a point to not teach us German so they could speak privately in front of the kids. So I grew up a monolingual English Canadian, whith parents who were bilingual German/English speakers.

I think that learning French when it suddenly appeared in Grade 7 would have been much easier had we learned German as kids. I know I worked hard at trying to learn French in school, but High School was the end for me. I was crashing and burning by grade nine French thanks to a personality conflict with my ninth grade French Teacher, and it made me give up. Out of self preservation I learned the phrase “Je ne sais pas” which got me out the other side with a bare pass. Given enough time and motive I have been able to muddle through written French. Because Alexandre Dumas is one of my favorite authors, I struggled through his novel The Black Tulip which our High School Library stocked in French.

Two Official Languages

Bon Cop Bad Cop Poster

My niece was enrolled in French Immersion when she began school, so I was thrilled that my child would be able to enter a French immersion program when he started school.

As it turned out, we were not allowed to enroll him in French Immersion because the school district we lived in only offered that option to children with a French speaking parent.

The educational options open to Canadian school children vary from board to board as well as province to province.

The best argument I had heard against French or English Immersion was the fact that the mother-tongue was disadvantaged since all of the education the children receive is in the second language. But I just learned from one of the parents in a CAPP (Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament) discussion thread that his children in Quebec get an alternating curriculum… one week French, the next week English. What an excellent idea. Problem solved.

If all Canadian school children were educated to be bilingual, I think it would help enormously in healing the language rift we have in Canada.

I’m quite sure we’d still find things to fight about, but they would be different things, quite possibly less harmful things. In addition to helping break down the language barriers which cause so much friction between anglophone and francophone Canadians, learning a second language is reputed to make music and mathematical learning easier for students as well.

And if we were all bilingual there would be a lot more great films like Bon Cop Bad Cop, which was great in either/both languages.

If I ran the Zoo er Country…

Canadian Flag

I would provide adequate funding to offer bilingual education to all our children.

Because we are ALL Canadians, whether we speak English or French or Both.
And both would be best for us all.

That’s what I would do if I ran the zoo country.



Write to your Member of Parliament and tell them what you think about premature prorogation or anything else! You can find your MP with this lovely link – it will also help you find out who your MP is if you don’t know. It’s time that Canadians started letting them know what we think about how they represent us.
Find your Member of Parliament

Write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and tell him too!
Prime Minister/Premier Ministre Stephen Harper <pm@pm.gc.ca>

The government gives more weight to postal mail: you can mail your comments without a stamp!!:

The Right Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
1600 90th Avenue Southwest, suite A-203
Calgary, Alberta
T2V 5A8

Canada badly needs electoral reform. Take a peek at the Non-Partisan Fair Vote Canada site to get information some ideas of electoral reform. All Canadians need to join in these non-partisan discussions.

Canadian Constitutional Law

1997

Mape Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"My first exposure to legislative “regulations” was when I tried reading the Provincial Government’s proposed Bill 160 back in 1997.   Although I’m reasonably well educated and usually able to grasp the big picture, when reading through this proposed education legislation more than once I still couldn’t figure it out. At first I worried that my critical thinking had been impaired by motherhood. As it turned out, that was not the problem. The problem was that Bill 160 wasn’t complete, it was a framework.

Regulations are the details that get filled in later after the law has been passed. Regulations are decided behind closed doors by the cabinet. Bill 160 even specified that many of its regulations could be retroactive. As a citizen, this makes me nervous.

The point of our lawmaking procedure is to allow for laws to be made democratically in the light of day by elected representatives.
I can understand how it started… a government wanted to put through a law quickly, but they were missing a detail or two so they left a regulatory blank to be filled in later. But legislation made up of “regulations to be named later” bypasses the system of parliamentary legislation which is how our laws are supposed to be made. This is like signing a contract that hasn’t been filled in.

2010

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
One result of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s misuse of prorogation means that more than half of the legislation in the works has been killed.

From my perspective, it is rather a good thing that some of the laws were derailed. As it turns out, it is a very good thing that Bill C-6 Canada Consumer Product Safety Act was not actually passed.

Marketed under the Healthy Canadians Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan umbrella, this law has not yet passed. This law is being sold as “protecting you and your family'”.

Constitutional lawyer Shawn Buckley explains about legislative regulations at the federal level:

Regulations don’t have to go through parliament. There doesn’t have to be a vote. If you want to pass a regulation and you’re the government, you just publish it in the Canada Gazette Twice, and it becomes the law.
–Shawn Buckley YouTube Video: Part 1 Restricting Our Freedoms

Through a discussion board on the Facebook Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament CAPP site I first learned about Bill C-6. I was directed to National Health Products Protection Organization (NHPPA)‘s Constitutional lawyer Shawn Buckley, who speaks on the two YouTube videos I’ve included in this page.

Although his focus is National Health Products Protection he very clearly lays out a few very frightening things that are happening in this legislation. Mr. Buckley’s concern with the regulations within this proposed law because he believes once the law is passed the regulatory elements will be employed detrimentally.


PART 1 Restricting Our Freedoms – Shawn Buckley about Bill C-6

Bill C-6 abolishes the Law of Trespass

Our right to privacy, which Canadians enjoyed on our own land, or in our own homes, is abolished under this law. Established in British Common Law, Canada’s Law of Trespass is older than confederation. The legal protection it afforded citizens was that any invasion of our privacy by citizens or the state had remedies in law. This law is why it is necessary for law enforcement to have a search warrant before invading citizen’s homes. Currently all levels of Canadian law enforcement employ the standards laid out in the Canadian Criminal Code: there needs to be a substantial likelihood of evidence of a crime.

Shawn Buckley says that Bill C-6 will allow a Justice to grant a search warrant to a Health Canada Inspector to any place that is “likely to find something regulated by the act”. Being skeptical, I went and looked it up on the government’s own website:

Authority to enter place

20. (1) Subject to subsection 21(1), an inspector may, for the purpose of verifying compliance or preventing non-compliance with this Act or the regulations, at any reasonable time enter a place, including a conveyance, in which they have reasonable grounds to believe that a consumer product is manufactured, imported, packaged, stored, advertised, sold, labelled, tested or transported, or a document relating to the administration of this Act or the regulations is located.
Bill C-6 – As Passed by the House of Commons Version

Exerpting the scary bit: “reasonable grounds to believe that a consumer product is … stored.”

My house has stored consumer products in it.   Every house does.   He’s right.

This law means that no one’s home is safe.

Of course, law enforcement isn’t going to be breaking down doors willy nilly… would they?

The Rule of Law

Canadian Flag
The Rule of Law is one of my favorites. Currently, the state needs to go through the court before it can deprive us of our liberty or our property. The court only grants the state the right to deprive us of these things if there is the provision of a crime or a legal judgement.

Bill C-6 allows a Health Canada Inspector to seize your property without going to court for a warrant.

Under current law, anything that is seized under a warrant must be (a) reported to the court immediately, and (b) the enforcement agent must apply to the court to keep it. The court may decide the seizure was improper and order it’s return.

Bill C-6 allows property seizure without having to bother with the court.

Worse, it allows the person whose property was seized can be billed for storage of their seized property. Or the Inspector can decide to destroy the property.

Keeping it cozy, the ministry that charges you keeps the goods they have seized.

So, in the name of “safety”, a warrant may be obtained without evidence, goods may be seized without a warrant, and then kept, disposed of or destroyed without a court order.


PART 2 Restricting Our Freedoms – Shawn Buckley about Bill C-6

I know that I am not Shawn Buckley’s intended audience because my only connection with the National Health Products Protection Organization would be as a consumer.   I’m just a citizen.   There are some really good laws in place currently protecting consumers.

If the inspectors are having trouble doing their job within Canada’s existing laws, perhaps the real problem is that there are not enough inspectors to be able to do the job properly. Rectifying that problem would be beneficial to consumers.

As a reader and writer I can see all too clearly the realms of abuse that laws like this will open up. And once a law like this passes, it will be that much easier to pass others as bad or worse.

There are really good reasons to afford citizens protection from the state. That’s why our legal system evolved the way it has… to ensure that the powerful state does not wantonly abuse its citizens. Citizens must be considered innocent until proven guilty. That’s important.

This law will strip centuries old legal protections from me and my family. That’s not good for us… that’s bad.

Prorogation killed this law. We’re safe from it now.

Well, no.

Bill C-6 was originally Bill C-52. It didn’t get passed and it has come back. A hair’s breath from being a law. So when parliament reconvenes it will no doubt be back. And this time, it will most likely be pushed through on a fast track.

We can get some good out of this prorogation if we can work to stop further erosion of our civil rights. Lets make democracy work for us.

Canadian House of Commons