The first thing we need is to keep the independent watchdog agency, the Ontario Environmental Commissioner. Ms Saxe has done a good job, and her 2018 report should be adopted. It is a lot more economical to limit water pollution than pay the price to clean it up afterward. We need to commit funding to programs that protect municipal drinking water sources, as well as increase the protection of wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife across the province. Currently it is getting harder and in many places impossible for homeowners to get home insurance against flooding. One reason basement floods are becoming more prevalent is the loss of wetlands. So increasing the protection of wetlands is essential. Woodlands and wildlife across the province need protection too.
After all, we can’t exist without water.
You’ve asked about the effects that climate change is having on our households, businesses, communities and public infrastructure. Here in Waterloo Region we’re increasingly having extreme weather events. “100 year storms” are happening yearly. In this century in Elmira we’ve had several ice storms, with trees coming down ripping into homes. I understand basement floods are so prevalent that homeowners can’t get insurance to cover them. Even though some governments don’t believe in climate change, the building standards for eavestroughs have changed to accommodate the torrential downpours we get almost every rainfall now. Such rain used to be the exception, now it’s the norm. With all the ice storms, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get our hydro lines underground.
The most valuable help you can give homeowners is subsidies to facilitate retrofitting existing homes.
We also need to protect our water sources for municipal water supplies so we don’t have another Walkerton.
The best way to hold polluters accountable is putting a price on carbon. While I agree cap and trade wasn’t the ideal way to go about it, the federal government’s fee and dividend system is a better choice. Don’t waste our tax dollars fighting a no-win battle.
Binding emission targets can be legislated so we can keep Global warming to 1.5%. We need a 15% reduction below 1990 levels by 2020, 37% reduction below 1990 levels by 2030, and we can be Net Carbon Neutral by 2050. Government has the power to jump start change with legislation. Mandate all government buildings and operations move to zero carbon.
The province needs to support the clean economy, but also support energy efficiency and conservation. We can do that by investing in public transit, and switching to electric buses and trains, and replacing gas stations with charging stations. People want to switch to electric vehicles but many can’t afford it without subsidies.
We need serious investment in cycling infrastructure. New York City has discovered that reducing street parking in favor of protected bike lanes makes the brick and mortar stores in our towns and cities prosper.
Intensification of housing in our urban cores especially along existing public transit lines. This will help keep our farmland and greenbelts secure, so we will have food security.
The greatest efficiency the government can make would be to wind down our nuclear plants whilst ramping up alternative energy initiatives. Wind and solar are only part of the story, geothermal is good too. Encouraging micro energy generation, especially for farmers and folks living in rural Ontario would help them help themselves. As they do in Europe, small biogas genberators can be fuelled by organic waste generated by the farm property would help make them secure.
But we really need to do what’s necessary to protect our environment.
Today is the Provincial Basic Income Pilot Consultation at Kitchener City Hall.
Done right, universal basic income would be awesome.
The provincial government is looking for 3 places in Ontario in which to conduct the pilot program. Waterloo Region be one would be excellent, as Andrea Kauppinen and John Green of Basic Income Waterloo Region will tell you. The more people who come out to support this, the better. Basic income would replace other social subsidies, it should improve your circumstances. Done well it can take the stigma out of the social safety net and even eliminate poverty.
“Basic income is an idea which provides a different approach to income security and reducing poverty,” the statement said. “It’s important we hear as many views as possible to ensure we get this right.”
The ministry says it’s particularly interested in thoughts about how the pilot program is designed, including who should be eligible, which communities to include, and how it will be evaluated.
“What they’re doing is trying to collect information in order to build a position. It’s very difficult (for us) to take a firm position at this point because we don’t actually know what the province is going to end up doing,” Bartholomew-Saunders said. “They’re collecting information to determine what they’re going to be doing.”
7.2.2 DGR Not a Concern
Research shows that there is little interest among the general public regarding the DGR Project at the Bruce Nuclear site. OPG had a social media analysis prepared in the fall of 2016. The analysis began with a detailed query in Sysomos MAP – a media analysis platform that provides news, blogs, forums, tweets and many other media results. A year’s worth of data was passed through IBM Watson’s Alchemy – a language analysis platform to identify key themes identified from OPG DGR related media activity and conversations in the past year. In addition to media analysis, the Google Keyword Planning Tool as well as Google Trends was used to understand how Ontarians are seeking information about nuclear waste disposal. In particular, the analysis focused on the keywords being used, and the frequency with which Ontarians are looking for this information.
The analysis showed that Ontarians are not looking for information on nuclear waste disposal in large volumes. This topic is not a popular one, nor is it generating large volumes of curiosity.
Compared to other energy related keywords (wind turbines, solar power) there is very
little curiosity about nuclear waste disposal, or deep geologic repositories.
DGR related searches are at a frequency of virtually zero, and nuclear waste as a topic
shows less interest amongst Canadians than other energy topics.
Looking at how Ontarians search, there is an even greater discrepancy. Energy and
power are more important (or generate more curiosity) than disposal and waste related
Currently, interest in DGR in Ontario has flat-lined; outside of a spike in May 2015
attributed to the release of the Joint Review Panel report, there has been very little
search frequency for ‘deep geologic repository’.
The all-party committee on electoral reform (ERRÉ) has just finished four months of expert and public consultations. They will make their recommendation to Government by December 1st.
Of the ERRÉ witnesses with a position on voting systems, 88% recommended Proportional Representation. This reinforces the findings from decades of research from around the world and of 13 previous electoral reform processes in Canada, including two thorough and impartial citizens assemblies.
When the Government launched the process without a mechanism for collecting empirical data, Fair Vote Canada, a multi-partisan advocacy group, started tracking the process very closely. We are releasing the results of our work to the media because we believe the process needs to be transparent and accountable.
(You can find key a list of results below with links our spreadsheets.)
Despite a strong call for proportional representation across all of the consultative platforms, we believe reforming the electoral system could be in serious trouble based on recent comments from Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Monsef.
President Réal Lavergne expressed Fair Vote Canada’s concerns “We are worried that the Minister and the Prime Minister are saying that we cannot count on the government keeping its promise to make every vote count. Yet experts and Canadians have clearly expressed themselves in favour of proportional representation, which is what it really means to “make every vote count.”.
David Merner, Vice-President of Fair Vote Canada and a Liberal candidate in last year’s federal election adds “This is not the time for back-tracking. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Democratic Institutions have personally created a sense of hope in Canadians, building on the 2015 Liberal campaign promise of Real Change. Millions of voters believed that the government intended to keep its promises. We believed the political cynicism of the Harper years was behind us, and thousands of us participated in the government’s consultations in good faith.”
Merner says “Now is the time for the government to deliver on its promises.”
Highly regarded Conservative strategist and spokesperson for the Every Voter Counts Alliance, Guy Giorno, adds that “committee members must endorse what’s right for Canadians, not what benefits any particular party. Given the weight of the evidence before the committee, the only legitimate option is a recommendation for proportional representation. Let’s also remember that electoral reform was a major issue at the last election, and voters overwhelmingly supported parties promising change.”
The weight of expert testimony in favour of PR was echoed across the country in hundreds of town halls and public dialogues.
Over the next few days the ERRÉ will negotiate a recommendation for a new electoral system for Canada. The final report is due on December 1.
Fair Vote Canada’s President Réal Lavergne explains that “Once that recommendation has been made, it will be incumbent on the minister to carry it forward and for the government to act on it. Leadership will be required to educate both the public and parliamentarians, and to champion the proposed reform.”
“Based on all the results of the expert and citizen consultations, the committee’s only legitimate option is to recommend in favour of proportional representation.”
88% of expert witnesses who expressed a preference called for proportional representation
4% supported the Alternative Vote
(majoritarian ranked ballot systems tend to evolve towards a two-party system, often favour centrist parties and could further entrench the distortions brought about by our existing majoritarian system. )
67% thought a referendum was undesirable or unnecessary.
Minister Monsef organized two types of town hall consultations: ones in her own riding, and others as part of a cross-country tour. Here is an extract from the report submitted to the ERRÉ on town halls held by Minister Monsef in her Riding of Peterborough:
“It is clear that there is an appetite for thoughtful change to the electoral system. While opinions on the various electoral systems did vary, most participants indicated their support for a more proportional electoral process that still respected the need for local representation and simplicity of the ballot.”
Although Minister Monsef routinely conducted straw polls on issues such as mandatory voting and online voting in town halls on the road, she did not do the same regarding support for proportional representation. FVC volunteers attended these events across the country and shared their opinions. Here are a few quotes from participants:
Toronto: “PR was clearly the main issue for most. With respect to PR, many attendees spoke passionately and eloquently in favour, and if anyone present opposed it, he or she was not bold enough to express that view.”
Vancouver: “It seemed that 90% of the audience… did want some form of PR.”
Edmonton: “ It seemed most people were in support of some sort of proportional representation.”
Yellowknife: “She asked whether the participants liked FPTP to remain, or Ranked system or STV or MMP or Proportional Representation implemented. One voted for FPTP. Many voted for MMP and a few voted for PR.”
Yukon: “Some Yukoners came in support of our current electoral system (First Past the Post); more were on the side of moving towards proportional representation.”
Halifax: “The feedback from the groups certainly favoured PR.”
Montreal: “There was an overwhelming support for PR in the room.”
Thunder Bay: “Of the dozens who rose to spoke, everyone spoke in favour of PR.”
Gatineau: “ Participants spoke to PR at every opportunity they had… However, the format made this difficult… Taking into consideration those interventions that spoke to the issue of PR vs FPTP or AV, the overwhelming majority of interventions – in the order of 70% or more – were in favour of PR.”
Waterloo: From the report of 4 MPs: “Every group discussed the need for our new electoral system to feature some degree of proportionality.”
Charlottetown: “ About 90% of the people there were pro-PR.”
Winnipeg: After noting that three people were for FPTP because they feared losing local representation. The rest of the comments I heard were mostly just preferences for the different PR systems.”
Happy Valley-Goose Bay: “What we said was that we wanted PR BUT, it had to be a hybrid type that considered the lack of population and massive land mass of not only Labrador but 60 % of Canada, i.e. the North.”
Calgary: “There was overwhelming support for getting rid of the current system, with different groups mentioning STV or MMP as their top choice.”
And, to conclude, this eloquent quote from a Fair Vote Canada volunteer at the Victoria town hall where the Minister said she “can’t promise you that I’ll be advocating for PR because I haven’t heard that from an overwhelming majority across the country.“
“The wheels were skidding out of control as we tried to combat the spin we received at last night’s town hall on Electoral Reform. Maryam Monsef, the Minister of Democratic Institutions hosted the gathering in Victoria billed as “the last chance” to give your input. But the tone of the meeting was quite acrimonious. They were clearly managing the message while backpedaling from an election commitment about changing the electoral system. Not only did she defend Trudeau’s recent comments about no longer needing this reform because we voted for HIM.”
“After months of hearing expert witness by the proportionally cross-partisan panel, and while MPs held public consultations with thousands of Canadians across the country, are we now to believe there is no appetite for Proportional Representation? Monsef said that she has not yet made up her mind but the implication of her words was troubling. Will the government diminish the committee’s well-researched, democratic report in December by championing their predetermined preference? For many of us who attended last night the so-called consultation felt like a sham.”
PS from Laurel:
I’ve chosen to used my own photographs, here, not only because they are free culture photos (licensed to share under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License) but because the number of electoral reform events in and around Waterloo Region has been staggering, and I wanted to share some of them with you, but there were so many local ERRÉ events that I attended (and I didn’t attend them all) that there isn’t enough room here to use photos from them all!
There was a time not long ago when I knew nothing about electoral reform. It was only when I was asked to take photos at local Fair Vote Waterloo events that I found myself listening to what the Fair Vote folks had to say, and after a while I even started understanding it. This was not an easy process, nor was it fast. It can take a while to really gain an understanding of something completely different from what we’re used to.
That’s why every electoral reform event must incorporate an education piece. The thing that I have seen over and over again is that even though Canadians may not know the words for it, or how to fix it, we know something is wrong with our voting system that needs to be fixed.
That is why Mr. Trudeau’s “We will make every vote count” resonated with so many people.
And what I have learned from every discussion and every ERRÉ event I’ve attended is that when Canadians have a chance to understand the difference between winner-take-all and Proportional Representation, we almost always want some form of PR. I think that’s because most Canadians value fairness, and the only way to get to a point where the votes of most Canadians actually count will require some form of Proportional Representation.
Fair Vote Canada suggests Canadians who want to see the implementation of some form of Proportional Representation would do well to let the ERRÉ Committee know about it, and to make it easier for us, they have an automated tool to help us send a letter urging the committee to recommend PR here:
This is the sixteenth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series
Not so long ago I had no idea there was any other way for Canadians to elect our government than the system we use now. When I began getting frustrated that no one I ever voted for ever got elected (no matter which candidate or party) it never even occurred to me the solution to my problem could lay in our voting system. All I knew was that the time I invested in Canada’s democracy ~ time spent learning about the candidates and issues and then voting for the candidate I thought would best represent me ~ the whole process had proven to be a futile exercise. In more than 30 years of voting, no one I had ever voted for got the chance to represent me in Ottawa. Or Queen’s Park, for that matter. It got even worse when I moved back to my home town to raise my family, because it was a “safe seat.”
Since there didn’t seem to be any point to voting, I began wondering why I should keep doing it. Every time an election rolled around, there was a lot of talk about how awful our low voter turnout. But maybe all those Canadians who weren’t wasting their time casting ineffective votes were smarter than I.
The lightbulb only went on over my head when I found myself listening to what people were saying at local Fair Vote events. They talked about why 39% of the votes shouldn’t equal 100% of the power. That made more sense than what happens when 39% of the voters elect a majority government. I learned that the only reason we use this system is because it was the same system England had been using… a system forged in the middle ages. Nor did I realize that a large part of the problem with our Westminster plurality electoral system had not even been designed to be democratic until I heard Canadian electoral system expert Dennis Pilon tell this to the ERRE Committee.
The reason is that the system was not designed to be democratic. Its origins are in the pre-democratic era, and it has been kept in place for electoral self-interest. Canadians have struggled to make their system democratic despite these institutional barriers. Proportional representation systems, by contrast, were designed to represent voters effectively, even if the motives of reformers were not always democratic.”
At first I felt pretty silly for not having figured it out myself. But the more I learned, the less foolish I felt. The first time I saw the John Cleese on Proprotional Representation video (yes, that John Cleese), I was a little jealous that our British friends found out about Proportional Representation decades ago. But I have to tell you, I was shocked when I discovered they hadn’t adopted it for UK General Elections in spite of the clarity Mr. Cleese brought to the subject. Although the new voting systems established for Scotland and Wales are proportional. Just as Ireland uses Proportional Representation.
The more I’ve learned about proportional Representation the more flabbergasted I am to realize more than ninety countries around the world have adopted Proportional Representation systems but Canada has not. But not for want of trying. Most Canadian electoral reformers date the need for Proportional Representation to the 1920’s, when Canada shifted from being a two party system to a multiparty system. The reason for this is that when you have a 2 party system, whoever wins a First Past The Post election will have has done so with an actual majority of votes. But because FPTP is a plurality system, the winner needn’t have a majority.
Still, even before we had more than 2 parties, not everyone was happy with our system.
There have been Canadians looking for electoral reform since before Confederation when the British government decided to pass The Act of Union amalgamating Upper Canada (Quebec) and Lower Canada (Ontario) in 1840. Each province received 42 seats in legislature. Unsurprisingly French Canada got the short end of the stick because of it’s larger population of 697,084. This meant on average 16,597 French citizens shared a representative, while an average of only 10,849 English Canadians shared a representative. Naturally the French Canadians protested this, clamouring instead for Representation by Population or “Rep By Pop”… or at least until the English population began outstripping the French when the tables turned.
In the late 19th Century, noted Canadian Sir Sandford Fleming offered a thousand dollar reward for anyone who could come up with a better way to elect our parliamentarians in An appeal to the Canadian Institute on the rectification of Parliament (1892) So there have always been Canadians dissatisfied with the inequities inherent in our system. And over the years there have been changes made, it took a while, but we finally managed to achieve universal that allowed every adult Canadian, regardless of race or gender to have a vote. Bur even so, Canada’s democratic deficit has been growing. In recent decades, our system more and more Canadians have disengaged from politics, leaving the job of voting up to only about 60% of the eligible voters. Even more alarming has been the fact a growing number of Canadians have largely stopped voting for what they actually want because they know there is little or no chance of getting it. After all, we live with a system in which a party seeking the dismantlement of Canada managed to become our Official Opposition Party decades before the NDP could. The fact is that voting “strategically” — not for the candidate who will best represent us, but for the candidate we think is the least worst. So many Canadians feel compelled to try to game the system that doesn’t work for us is a sure sign we are not getting the representation we want and we dare not even try.
The main reason for all of this is that our FPTP system does not deliver the results most Canadians want. When a party with a 39% plurality wins the election, that means 61% of eligible voters didn’t vote for that party. But the way our system works, that party can walk away with 100% of the power, because the winner only needs to get more votes than the others to get majority power. (And that is without factoring in the uncast votes of the 40% of eligible voters a constituency comprised of more eligible voters than those who voted in a 39% majority Liberal Government in 2015 or a 39% majority Conservative Government in 2011. In our multi-party FTTP system, we get far more phony majorities than actual majority governments. As the Liberal Party did in 2015, and the Conservative Party did in 2011.
The problem with disproportional results is too many voters don’t get representation in Parliament. And the problem with phony majorities is that a Majority Government without the support of a majority of voters has the power to make policy and law without the support of a broad base of Canadians. That’s why proportionality is important.
The Liberal Party promised electoral reform during the 2015 election, and the system we have gives them the power to deliver. And they have. The LPC Government has gone so far as to accede to the NDP request to restructure the composition of the Parliamentary Committee studying electoral reform to be proportional. These are good signs.
The ERRE Special Committee on Electoral Reform has been tasked with consulting with Canadians to find out what we want out of Electoral Reform. The ERRE Committee is reaching out to Canadians in a variety of ways, both online and off. One of the most important pieces of the process ought to be the ERRE Committee’s Cross Canada tour so they can consult with ordinary Canadians face to face.
This is a natural part of any consultation process. Earlier in the year I was the photographer for all 5 Fair Vote Waterloo delegations to the Waterloo Region MPs elected in 2015. Fair Vote asked each Liberal MP to do what they could to bring the Electoral Reform Committee to Waterloo Region. So I was surprised when I saw that Waterloo Region was not included on the itinerary the ERRE Committee had set out for the real world part of the consultation.
Some of my Fair Vote friends have suggested Waterloo Region might have been omitted because their group is so active here. After all, Waterloo Region might even be considered responsible for the fact the Federal Government is holding an Electoral Reform Consultation at all.
The Liberal Party electoral reform policy plank, which received wide spread support from Liberals across the nation, originated right here in the Waterloo Region as a grass roots initiative within the Liberal Party Membership. It was one of my proudest accomplishments, as the past president of the Waterloo Federal Liberal Association, to work with a team of fellow volunteers dedicated to electoral reform.
I can understand why the ERRE Committee wishes to to seek out and consult with Canadians who are not as well informed about electoral reform issues as some Waterloo Region residents are, but I see no good reason for the ERRE Committe to avoid ordinary Canadians who do have some understanding of the issue. Isn’t the point of a Parliamentary Consultation to consult with all Canadians, to find out what Canadians might want from electoral reform — even those who might already know what they hope for from electoral reform?
I have no problem at all with this Parliamentary cross Canada Consultation stopping once in Nunavut, twice in B.C and Manitoba, or even 3 times in Québec. The point is to consult with Canadians across the country.
What I simply can not understand is how the ERRE committee can limit its itinerary to a single stop in the most populous province, Ontario.
[This is a guest post by Verna Brunet, an ordinary Canadian with serious concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.]
Yesterday I went to Windsor, Ontario to join the protest against the TPP outside the hotel where the Trudeau Liberal government was holding consultations on this treasonous trade agreement.
My sign read:
TPP is Oligarchy
Oligarchy is a corruption of Democracy
I was told that we could speak to the government for maximum 2 minutes between 2pm and 3pm, if we signed up.
The problem with me has never been how to get me to shoot off my mouth. The usual issue is how in the world to shut me up once I get started.
Didn’t have anything prepared. Had to scramble some notes.
Here’s what I said:
The people of Canada elected your party to administer our DEMOCRACY. The TPP destroys our democracy, replacing it with OLIGARCHY. We the people have never given you the authority to do that. The TPP makes the Trudeau Liberals, like the Harper Conservatives before them, a rogue government.
Secret ISDS courts are a swift kick I’m the face of Democracy and a sucker punch to the gut of Justice
The only right protected by this sickening trade agreement is the insane, irrational right of millionaires to make a profit.
We elected you to govern in a manner that protects our economic rights. Instead you have sold our economic rights to the elite 1%. You are a rogue government.
The TPP allows the pathologically greedy millionaires to erase the last shreds of our cherished and democratic environmental protection laws.
These are the same environmental laws we elected you to protect and enforce.
With these toxic trade agreements you have become a rogue government like the Harper Conservative government before you.
The TPP allows pathologically greedy millionaires to erase the last frail shreds of our civil rights — the same rights we elected you to restore.
You have betrayed us. You are a rogue government.
You campaigned on CHANGE You have failed to change: the TPP the ISDS courts.
Q: What are your thoughts on using ranked ballots for Ontario municipal elections?
A: I disagree with even considering ranked ballots for municipal use unless they are used to introduce an element of proportionality to the electoral process. In order to achieve this there is a need for multi-member districts or offices so Ranked Ballots might be used in an STV (Single Transferable Vote) system.
Q: Should municipalities be able to use ranked ballots for certain offices and not others? For example, only for mayor?
A: I have never bought into the idea that instant runoff voting is somehow more democratic than any other winner-take-all system. This is why I don’t agree with any winner-take-all method to elect a mayor. Ranked ballots should only be used in multi-member races to ensure a proportional outcome (again, as in STV).
The proportionally elected municipal council could select the mayor. The idea of democracy is to make government accountable to the people, so investing a disproportionate amount of power in the office of leader seems more like re-establishing a non-hereditary monarchy via by election. That might have seemed reasonable when they signed the Magna Carta, but we ought to be able to do better than that in the 21st century.
Q: Should public consultation by a municipality be required before implementing ranked ballots or before changing from ranked ballots back to the current system?
A: Any major change to our electoral process should require both public education and consultation.
Q: What form should that consultation take?
A: Empanelling an independent citizen’s assembly to study the issue and make recommendations would be a good start. It is critical that enough time is allotted to do this work. After the recommendations are made, there should be should be public consultation meetings, ideally conducted both online and off before following up with a binding referendum requiring a simple majority. Once the new system is chosen there should be a set time or number of elections for the new system to be practiced, after which a second referendum to determine whether to keep it, try something else or return to the old way should be held.
Q: Unlike the current system, ranked ballots can involve multiple rounds of counting before all the seats to be elected have been won.
How much information would you want about election results? For example, where there have been multiple rounds of counting would you want to see the results of each round of counting or just the final results?
A: The details of all the results should be shared in the interest of open government. This can be done easily and cheaply in a digital world.
Q: Are there other ideas you wish to share on ranked ballots that you would like us to consider?
A: If ranked ballots are to be used in a non-proportional winner-take-all system, multiple rounds of counting wherein candidates are dropped from the race must require multiple votes, not instant runoff voting.
Today I hope the Ontario Liberals lose all 5 by-elections.
Such an outcome could lead to democracy. In a Perfect World, all five seats would fall to the NDP. In the aftermath, Katheen Wynne and Andrea Horwath would work together to reform Ontario’s inequitable antiquated First Past The Post electoral system instead implementing Proportional Representation.
Elections are not generally held in summer because citizens are much less likely to vote, what with vacations and all. Holding an election on the Thursday just before a long weekend makes it much, much worse.
“We know that on the long weekend, when most families across Ontario are prepared to take that extra day to spend with their family, Ms. Wynne has decided that she would like to subvert democracy.”
Democracy Watch also took Wynne to task for not giving the other parties enough time to nominate candidates.
These by-elections can neither deliver a Liberal majority or replace Wynne’s Liberal Government, since all five are to fill seats vacated by Liberals. Premier Wynne was chosen to succeed Dalton McGuinty as provincial leader when he stepped down after failing to reclaim a majority of seats in Ontario’s Legislative Assembly. Much of Wynne’s term of office has been taken up in answering for McGuinty scandals. The main one being McGuinty’s decision to stop two unpopular gas plants. Even Premier Wynne acknowledges this was politically motivated to save Liberal seats in the 2011 election.
The entire scandal is about money. McGuinty claimed closing one Mississauga plant would cost $190 million, but in reality the penalty was 45% higher as the relocation cost taxpayers $275 million.
Was the decision to close and relocate these gas plants a subversion of democracy?
An Undemocratic System
When a majority government is elected by a minority of citizens, democracy does not ensue. Our Winner Take All electoral system is itself inequitable, and the way we elect MPPs to the Legislative assembly of Ontario is itself undemocratic. This system confers total legislative authority to any party securing a majority of seats. The closest we get to democracy is with a minority government.
People think we have democracy because we get to vote. But how democratic is it when most of our votes don’t count?
In our representative democracies, our MPP is supposed to represent our interests in government. But when our representatives are told how to vote by the Party, they represent the Party, not their constituents. That’s not very democratic either.
We’ve been told over and over that majority government is good. But majority government is effectively a dictatorship. Dalton McGuinty decided to cancel the gas plants in a bid to retain a majority. After all those years governing as a dictator, he was unsuited governing any other way.
The Real Gas Plant Issue
Governments, particularly governments with a majority, make bad spending decisions all the time. Of course they do, because there is no stopping them.
Governments, particularly governments with a majority, make decisions that are beneficial to their party. Of course they do, because they need the party to get re-elected.
In spite of all the partisan rhetoric, the same thing kind of thing happens under every majority government, no matter which party holds the reigns. Not because any party is particularly evil, but because the system allows it to happen.
This is why the only way to actually correct the problem is to change the system. Ontario needs to adopt some form of Proportional Representation if we want democracy.
The question we should be asking is:
Why were the gas plants sited in Oakville and Mississauga in the first place?
The Liberal Government knew the only way to win over the Mississauga voters was to stop the gas plants. Mr. McGuinty’s majority approved the unpopular Oakville and Mississauga gas plants in spite of the fact that the vast majority of people — voters — who lived there thought they were inappropriate.
We all want green energy, right? And Green Energy initiatives should improve our quality of life. But McGuinty’s Green Energy Act could only have been passed with a majority government, because it summarily overrides municipal decision making.
“The proposed facility, slated to be built south of the town’s Ford plant, would have been less than a kilometre from homes and schools, fuelling concerns about safety and air quality.”
Municipal governments don’t risk the environment where people live, but the Green Energy Act trumps such quality of life considerations. Local residents in my Elmira hometown have been trying to prevent a provincially approved monstrous Biogas plant being built adjacent to parks, the Kissing Bridge Trail, and a residential area that includes churches and an elementary school, a stones throw from the downtown core. Biogas facilities that are significantly smaller than Elmira’s produce green energy in Europe, where they are sited in close proximity to the source of waste production. The fuel waste destined for the Elmira plant will be trucked into the small town from all over North America. The irony for McGuinty is that Liberal MPP Leanna Prendergast refused to take a stand against Elmira’s proposed biogas plant, and lost her seat in the 2011 election.
While Elmira residents can look forward to hundreds of garbage trucks rumbling through the small community, courtesy of the Green Energy Act, the communities of Oakville and Mississauga can rejoice at their 11th hour reprieve.
While the money issue needs to be addressed, this is a just symptom of bad governance enabled by our winner-take-all system.
McGuinty knew Mississauga voters opposed the gas plants, but used the Green Energy Act to impose them on the community anyway.
At the provincial level of government in Ontario, the Progressive Conservative Party is attempting to stick the new leader of the current Liberal minority government, Kathleen Wynne, with responsibility for the fiscal penalty Ontario incurred when the previous government cancelled approved Gas Plants in an attempt to ensure re-election.
While government fiscal irregularity is nothing to be sneezed at, we should note that Mr. Hudak’s outrage is never directed at his own party’s past malfeasance. Take, for example, the sale of the 407, an Ontario Toll Highway back when the Progressive Conservatives last held power in Ontario.
The construction of the 407 was taxpayer funded for years, bankrolled largely by funds collected through inflated license renewal fee for local drivers (charged far more than other Ontario drivers). But as the highway neared completion, instead of adding the new 407 to the province’s existing system of free highways paid for by taxpayers, the PC Government of the day sold it out from under taxpayers.
Without any consulation at all.
It was a very good deal for an unaccountable private company, but a rather bad one for the Ontario taxpayers who funded it without any benefit. Unless, of course, you were a taxpayer who could afford to pay to drive on the private highway created largely at public expense.
The important part of the gas plant story isn’t that it was cancelled due to political expediency, but rather that it was approved at all.
The cancellations clearly illustrate that the McGuinty Liberal Government understood very well that the majority of local residents were opposed to the gas plants. The fact is, Liberal government policy gave unfair advantage to commercial interests ignoring the public good.
One would assume that the point of embracing green energy would be in support of environmental improvement. Yet plunking gas plants down in a heavily populated area doesn’t improve the environment for the local citizens. Siting undesirable industries in close proximity to residential areas loses sight of the public good.
No legislation should allow developers carte blanche. There must be a balance between citizen needs, corporate interests and government policy, absent from the Green Energy Act. The disturbing part is that Mr. Hudak doesn’t question the undemocratic imposition of a provincial policy that strips away citizen rights. If he held majority power, would he govern any differently?
Ontario’s Green Energy Act is an example of law made without proper scrutiny or balance, only possible because we are saddled with an inequitable unaccountable First Past The Post electoral system that gives 100% of the power to a few. Proportional Representation is necessary at all levels of government if we are to have real democracy. No government should be able to ignore the needs of citizens with impunity.
The real question should be:
“Why were the gas plants approved in the first place?”
Now is the time that Kathleen Wynne’s government should be working to effect meaningful electoral change. Ontario desperately needs an electoral system that will provide Ontario with Proportional Representation.
We will never have accountable government until all our votes count.
Although I happen to live in Ontario, I am a Canadian. I care about all of Canada, including B.C. and wonder what will happen if the people who value oil profits above the environment get their way.
What those who seek to reap profits in the short term fail to realize is that the environment is our real capital.
If we squander it now, in the long term we will be left with nothing.
Tanker Free B.C. is having a letter writing campaign in the run-up to the impending B.C. provincial election. If the citizens of B.C. elect a government that stands up for the environment, it could make an awfully big difference to the environmental outcome.
If you live in B.C. you can use this link to write to the candidates to let them know that you care.
When humans wreck the environment, it impacts on us all. So even though I can’t vote, I’ve thrown in my two cents. I’ve edited Tanker Free B.C.’s letter into something suitable for those of us who live in other parts of Canada to send. Because everything is connected, and, as Canada’s coat of arms points out, our great nation runs from sea to sea.
Dear Candidate for BC Premier,
As a Canadian who values the “Supernatural” province of BC (and the $13.4 Billion tourism economy it enables) I am gravely concerned about American pipeline giant Kinder Morgan’s plans to transform Vancouver into a Tar Sands shipping port.
History proves that all oil ports and pipelines experience spills –
no matter what safety measures are promised.
The estimated 35 long-term jobs from an expanded oil port pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of jobs dependent upon a clean coast. We cannot market ourselves as “The Best Place on Earth” while running one or more oil tankers every day through our harbour.
The pipeline and tankers risk harming BC’s coastal communities, marine ecosystems, and natural wealth, from the Fraser River Delta and productive farmland, to the Gulf Islands and Victoria. The pipeline would travel through the heartland of BC – through Kamloops, Merritt, Abbotsford and Surrey, over farms, forests, rivers and streams – exposing them to spills similar to the recent disasters in Arkansas and Michigan.
Such a large percentage of the world’s finite supply of fresh water lays within Canadian Borders, it is unconscionable to risk it for such short term gains. The pipeline threatens the future of Canada, as well as the planet. Allowing Kinder Morgan’s expansion means more Tar Sands development, the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels, driving global climate change. I worked hard raising my family; I want my descendents to live in a country they can be proud of.
The Coast Salish people understand all these risks better then anyone and have voiced their unequivocal opposition.
British Columbia deserves a leader with the vision and courage to chart a course for British Columbia based on clean technologies and a sustainable economy, a leader who can guide the transition of our society from fossil fuel dependence and resource extraction toward self-reliance, renewable energy, effective public transit, local food production, and value-added manufacturing.
B.C. deserves no less than a leader who recognizes the real value of British Columbia – a leader who will fight to keep BC “Supernatural”. Canada deserves no less. Please keep Canada clean and secure.
Laurel L. Russwurm
As always, you’re welcome to use any or all of my letter, please help yourself.
Once upon a time they thought the ocean fish in the maritimes were an inexhaustible resource. Endangering the natural beauty of our world is bad enough, but damaging the environment puts us all at risk.