February 26, 2006

On Canada and the Olympics

Well Canada was extremely close to their goal of 25 medals at the games. I guess you can't really get any closer than 24. It has been an amazing two weeks and Canadians every where should feel some pride for the all the athletes that went over to Turin/Torino. I just wanted to shoot off some thoughts...

  • I personally think that Cindy Klassen and Clara Hughes are both equally impressive. While Klassen may be the most decorated Canadian Winter Olympic athlete ever, Hughes is only one medal shy. Hughes has the distinction of having won medals in both the Summer (cycling) and Winter (speed skating) Games, for a total of 5.
  • Canada definitely has some young and extremely talented athletes in mix (Overbay, Roberge, Crawford, etc.) and the next few years, leading up to Vancouver, should be very exciting.
  • I love the fact that Newfoundland and Labrador completely rallied around Gushue's curling team. It is definitely a sign of pride and unity when the provincial government is willing to shut down schools and many businesses are willing to close early just so people could watch the game and cheer on one of their own. Good for them!
  • Canada's Women's hockey team is in a league of their own. At one time they talked about Canada and the US being a top-tier group, with Finland and Sweden being a second-tier, and so on. I honestly think that the top-tier is solely owned by Canada at this point. This makes things a lot more interesting if this holds true. I think it's better for the game to have one elite team rather than two because it than becomes a race to see who can knock them off the podium instead of who is going to be third.
  • In my opinion, cross-country skiing and speed skating (short and long) truly prove how athletic these competitors are. There's always talk about how the athletes of the summer games are the real athletes, but I have no doubt in my mind that many of the winter participants are up there with the best.
  • Who's fault is it that Canada didn't men's hockey gold? I blame Pat Quinn. I don't think Quinn knows how to coach the more open game. Look at the Maple Leafs. Some may argue that Quinn coached the team to gold in 2002. But I think having the leadership skills of Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman on the team did much more for the team than any coaching would have. Though, this opinion may also be attributed to the fact that I'm a life-long Montreal Canadiens fan.
  • I feel terrible for the elusive Olympic medal with Jeremy Wotherspoon. However, this shouldn't and hopefully won't define his speed skating career. Wotherspoon is the most decorated speed skater in history with an impressive 57 titles and numerous records. He should take solice in the fact that he's not the first to have bad luck at the Olympics despite being at the top (Kurt Browning anyone?) and that he could be Bode Miller. Miller, the American alpine skier, who is going through similar bad luck is getting eaten alive by the American press.
  • One of the most telling, but least regarded, stats at the Winter Olympics is the number of 4th place finishes a nation has. Canada had 14 fourth place finishes, well above any other country. Many of these were hundredths of a second off the podium finishes. The potential for Canada to reach the goal of 30+ medals at Vancouver is definitely within reach!
  • I think that if there was a moment (there were probably many more) that easily defined the spirit of the games it came during women's cross-country team sprint. After Sara Renner's pole broke, she was handed a replacement by a Norwegian coach. The act of kindness, while giving Canada its chance to take silver, ultimately knocked Norway's team off the podium. I think it's a great reminder that the Olympics are about much more than winning.

February 25, 2006

South Dakota Eroding Individual and Democratic Rights

South Dakota lawmakers are looking to take advantage of the recent conversion of the US Supreme Court's to the right-wing persuasion. In a direct attack on Roe v. Wade, lawmakers voted to ban all reasons for abortion except in the case the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. While this is alarming in itself, there are other measures that were taken to circumvent democracy in the process as well. So what does essentially banning all reasons mean? Well, women who get pregnant and do not wish to be (accidental pregnancies) cannot have an abortion, obviously. However, neither can women who's pregnancies are a risk to their health - not life - are banned from making a choice right for them. Women who become pregnant due to rape or through incestual abuse are also going to be forced to go to term. How anyone can justify that a woman who becomes pregnant through rape (a criminal and unwanted act and resulting complication) is beyond my comprehension. Possibly the argument is that the new, unborn life shouldn't be 'punished' through no fault of their own. Though the same argument can apply to the mother. Yet, even giving the benefit of the doubt to that argument, that same argument cannot apply to incest. While not guaranteed, there is high degree of risk that a child born out of incest can inherit or develop genetic defects. These can vary from minor issues to extremely serious and debilitating complications, never mind the psychological problems that many children of incest suffer. If the issue with pregnancies due to rape is not to punish the child, it is obvious that isn't the concern with pregnancies due to incest. It would be interesting to hear the reasoning for lawfully impeding on the life and well-being of two people (mother and child) because of a criminal act that neither asked to be a part of. South Dakota lawmakers didn't stop there. In the process of eroding the rights of women, they also decided to erode the democratic rights of all South Dakotans. In an attempt to prevent public discourse on the issue lawmakers banned the issue from being subject to a referendum and prevented the banning of state financing in the event of a court challenge. The attack on democratic rights is much more concerning than the other, given that there are legal methods available to circumvent the ban (state jumping perhaps). Firstly, for some people it will be argued that the state legislators had the mandate to ban abortions by being elected. That knowingly electing conservative politicians is tantamount to providing public permission. However, it isn't the state that ultimately granted women the right to choose. The right was guaranteed at the federal level. Having the state take away an individual right that they did not grant in the first place means the state has impeded on another's jurisdiction and ultimately it shouldn't have the right to make such a decision. Furthermore, if the conservative lawmakers were so confident that they were doing the will of their constituents then they wouldn't have taken the step of eroding democracy. It is a dangerous precedent for politicians to pass a controversial law and then take steps in a blatant attempt to circumvent democracy, especially in the case of banning a referendum. Since the right to choose was ultimately granted at the federal level, then a referendum should have been had in the first place. It should only be the citizens of the state that should be specifically allowed to opt out of rights granted to the entire country. To ban the greatest form of public consultation and then to guarantee the whole of the state treasury to defend the undemocratic decision process on an issue that essentially requires public input reeks more of authoritarianism rather than democracy. Essentially this is gross abuse of the political system that these legislators have been entrusted with by lawfully forcing their opinion on their constituents and then lawfully setting up methods of shutting down any public objection. While I reserve providing my opinion on the subject of abortions, (and no, don't necessarily take that as one way or the other) I am very much in favour of the right to choose and meaningful democratic protest. However, both of these have been tossed out the door. It may be that an overwhelming number of South Dakotans favour the banning of abortion and that is their prerogative. However, even they cannot make that decision for themselves and just electing conservative politicians isn't enough.

February 17, 2006

Portlands Project Another Band-Aid Solution

DemocraticSPACE.com has an excellent post about the Portlands Project being only a short-term solution. While the proposed power plant will cover the needs of Toronto in the short-term, by as early as 2010, Ontario could be in the same position it is in now; not producing enough in-province electricity. The province would then have to begin looking at its options all over again. There are other, better long-term solutions to Ontario's power problem. One of these, though politically it is close to being a deathwish for even suggesting it, is the creation of a trash-to-energy incinerator. There is even the suggestion it could be housed in the Durham region where a half-built generator, owned by OPG, is collecting dust. With current technology, modern incinerators are extremely close to being emmission-free. But close is the operative word here. And this may also solve Toronto's current garbage woes. The problem with is, is that it will continually need a constant flow of garbage to keep it producing power. The incinerator would make be a drasctic shift from the concepts of the Blue and Green Bin projects and other efforts to reduce waste overall. An incinerator essentially encourages simplistic waste production and circumvents conservation. Check out the article at DemocraticSPACE.com.

Status Quo for Toronto's Garbage Problem

It was announced today that Toronto has signed with Verspeeten Cartage to haul its garbage to Michigan beginning in April. Toronto faced a crunch when their current hauler, Wilson Logistics, bailed on negotiations with the city apparently over costs. What this means for Toronto is that nothing has really changed. The new agreement's cost has yet to be publically released. Councillor Mike Del Grande calls the new deal 'a band-aid solution'. He couldn't be more right. It's interesting to note that Toronto's mayor, David Miller, is officially offiliated with the NDP (or at least he was when originally elected mayor). He has often been considered left-leaning when it comes to social issues. It is because of this I find it most frustrating that he has only propped up the status quo of Toronto's garbage problem. While he introduce and expanded Toronto's Green Bin program he was also a major player and proponent in extending Toronto's contract with Republic, the company that runs the landfills where Toronto's garbage gets hauled. The frustration comes from that fact that both the federal and Ontario wings of the NDP have very strong opinions on environmental issues. Both have pushed for greater progressive and alternative strategies in dealing with issues such as garbage and pollution. There are better alternatives (see here) than landfill that can be used. David Miller needs to begin recognizing these alternatives and begin consultation on developing a plan. His best bet would be to work with the Ontario government to develop a long-term strategy for the entire province since Toronto is not the only municipality that is struggling with a garbage issue.

February 14, 2006

It's Time for Toronto and Ontario to be Realistic About Their Garbage

Who can take our trash to Michigan? A burning desire for power What does it take for Toronto to get their heads around the fact that they need a real solution to their garbage situation? After landfill controversies with other Ontario municipalities, the impending threat of Michigan banning exports, Toronto now has to deal with trucking companies not wanting to ship the city's garbage. I've posted about this a couple times already (here and here). I've proposed ideas that have worked elsewhere in Canada (Alberta and Nova Scotia). These places also had to deal with trash problems and were able to develop viable alternatives to just simply trash dumping. It's time Toronto faces the fact that we're in the new millenium and using old, simplistic models of trash solutions won't cut it. It's time to realize their is advanced technology and even better ideas and solutions that can be used.

  • The Alberta model is a public/private venture of a factory that turns all garbage, minus heavy metals, into compost.
  • The Nova Scotia model is strict, but easy-to-follow guidelines that encourages mass composting and recycling. The plan has cut Nova Scotia's landfill by over 50%.
  • Developing a tire recycling plan. Recycled tires can be used for residential insulation, playground equipment, etc.
  • There are some newer ideas being developed in the realm of incinerators and waste-to-energy plants that have real potential to be almost free of emissions and can also produce ashphalt and bricks to be used in construction.

There are, like all most things, both positives and negatives to some of these ideas, especially the last one. However, they all need to get serious consideration because the status quo isn't a broken system at best. Therefore, it's time Toronto, and Ontario, do some real exploration of the issue. Combining two or more of these ideas could solve many problems and possibly help in others. It is obvious that shipping garbage to Michigan's landfills is becoming more trouble than its worth and therefore it's time come up with some real alternatives.

February 12, 2006

NDP's Child-Care Act Proposal is Smart Politics

Last Thursday it was announced that the NDP will introduce a National Child-Care Act shortly after the House reconvenes in April. If anything, people should not be overly surprised by this bold move. The current manifestation of the NDP became quite confident with itself during the last minority government. And it would seem that Canadians' confidence in the party has also grown and granted the NDP more votes and seats in the recent election. Making the bold move of the Child-Care Act is essentially an extension of that. However, some Conservatives and others probably believe this latest move by the NDP borders on arrogance and an over-stepping of their mandate in the House. In reality this proposal is a smart, calculated move. It is no secret that the Canadian public wants anything but another election, especially right away. So this puts some pressure on the opposition parties to tread lightly for the next while and to seriously consider letting the Conservatives have some limited freedom with their plans. Obviously the Conservatives know this and will be definitely trying to take advantage of the situation. Yet, while none of the opposition want to vote against the Conservatives and possibly be responsible for bringing down the house, this doesn't stop them for voting in favour of a motion proposed by the opposition. This is where the NDP's proposal comes into play. In some form or another, all three opposition parties support a child-care plan that puts money into the provinces coffers and provides government-funded spaces. The Conservatives on the other hand are looking to introduce a plan that would give a little - understatement - money directly to parents but offers no new spaces. This would also mean the child-care deal that is currently in place would be trashed. To vote against the Conservative plan, which could be packaged into the budget, would most certainly mean a fall of the government. To circumvent this problem the NDP will propose their Act. By being pro-active the NDP's plan could unite the opposition parties and inadvertently force the hand of the Conservatives to continue the Liberals' original child-care plan without bringing down the House. If successful, the NDP could add another line to their record and use it to prop themselves up in the next election. It would also make it look like the Conservatives are ultimately powerless and weak. However, this may not even be the NDP's purpose. This may just be a game of rhetoric to give relevance to the small NDP caucus. If there is even a hint of the Act passing, the Conservatives may suddenly feel generous and willing to negotiate with the NDP. Obviously the Conservatives will want nothing to do with the NDP's proposal. It prevents the Conservatives with following through on their child-care plan and it would bind them in the future. Their only option, since they do not have majority, would be to bargain with the NDP. In this scenario, the NDP are suddenly holding power that is beyond their size in the House and possibly, once again, dictating parts of the budget. It has become clear that the current manifestation of the NDP is not content being just bodies that fill chairs in the House. They are willing to be outspoken, pro-active and relevant. They are determined to take advantage of the minority government situation and use it to their advantage. And so far it seems to be working in their favour, especially if their increase in public support is any indication. Gone are the days of them being just noise and seemingly socialist extremists, Canadian-style. They seem to be showing a clear focus and whichever scenario is being played out with their proposal, they seem to be showing a lot more tact as well. This is definitely an NDP party that can be force in Canadian politics.

February 11, 2006

McGuinty's Energy Plan Lack's Vision

Announced this week, the McGuinty Liberals are going to extend subsidized energy rates for businesses. While some corporations are applauding the move others, especially those in the forestry industry, believe this annoucement is too late and not extensive enough. Some of the industry's plants have already closed down. Some critics are also charging that by extending the subsidy, first given under the previous Conservative government, the Liberals are admitting to a lack of vision in Ontario's power strategy. The problem isn't so much that Ontario lacks vision - though it does - it is that Ontario just keeps forking out money that it doesn't have to artificially lower energy prices. The power subsidy to corporations costs Ontario approximately $300 million per year, though some estimates put last year's rebates over $700 million. For a government that has been crying 'broke' (with some justification early on), this subsidy policy is a costly one and is only going to cost us more. The reality in Ontario is that on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars it's giving back in energy rebates, the province is also looking at dishing out tens of billions to refurbish and build new nuclear power plants. What Ontario should be looking at is how it can spend these millions or billions of dollars to develop conservation and green energy plans. The existing nuclear power plants were the reason Ontario's fully public energy system went broke in the first place and gave reason to the Tories to partially privatize it. Now, instead of an energy system that looks to benefit the public - like it should - it costs the public a lot of public dollars and the system looks to only benefit itself. Recently, the McGuinty Liberals announced a plan that would allow Ontario residences to produce their own energy through renewable and green sources. The plan also allows residences and businesses to earn money for their excess power. However, this plan lacks any real incentive for businesses and residences, mainly, to purchase the expensive equipment needed to produce power. The cost of outfitting a house with enough solar panels to cover heating alone can cost upwards of $10 000. That is a large amount of capital needed to just have the panels installed on existing houses. What the McGuinty government should be considering is instead of forking out billions for nuclear-reactors is how they can use - probably just a fraction - of those billions to entice home owners and businesses to purchase solar panels and private wind generators. Some possible ideas:

  • put money into a retrofit fund for businesses and homes
  • offer tax incentives, to both builders and owners, for having solar panels and wind power generators installed into new houses
  • cut the PST on the purchases of solar panels and wind generators
  • provide the new Smart Metres free of charge to those that have personal energy supplies installed
  • provide tax cuts to companies that develop and sell solar panels and wind generators to help bring retail costs down

These are five ideas that I came up with in about 2 minutes. The McGuinty government has has 2 years already and the best they've come up with is building more nuclear and fossil fuel plants and a home-production plan that provides no real incentives. It's time for the McGuinty government to get serious about conservation and alternative energy production. Bigger energy plants and unsustainable rebate plans only costs the province (and ultimately its citizens) money; money that the government claims it doesn't have and in turn hurts our other public programs.

The McGuinty government should be looking at rebuilding our public system based on renewable and green energy resources. This is truly the only way to keep energy prices down because a public system is not concerned about profits or shareholders. Its only concern is to the people who live in the province and providing them with energy. We once had a public system that functioned well and served its purpose. It's time we had that once again based on alternative production and a strong vision.

February 08, 2006

Kinsella named Speaker of Senate

I caught this headline [see title] at the Globe and Mail. One can only imagine the craziness that ran through my mind at the thought of Warren Kinsella being the Speaker of the Senate. Not that I would have had a problem with that. I would have had a problem with Harper appointing another unelected to the Senate and then giving them a job such as Speaker. I would have liked the fact that Warren would have made the senate more interesting and possibly even relevant. Too bad it's only Noel Kinsella they were talking about... I guess the Senate is still boring and useless...

Mr.Emerson, I'm Confused... Liberal = Independant?

Apparently Emerson is claiming that 'he ran his constituency office on a non-partisan basis'. In other words, he ran as an non-committed Independant. I must have missed the memo that formally changed the name, the logo, the constitution and mandate of the Liberal Party of Canada to mean Independant. I'm guessing all the Liberal MPs, party members, financial donators, volunteers and voters also have missed this change. Someone better inform Elections Canada right away! If Emerson were truly running as a non-partisan he should have openly informed all his staff and volunteers and his constituents most of all. They deserved to know that he had no intention as running as a Liberal against the Conservatives. They should know that he didn't make comments about fighting Harper and the Conservatives. Since Emerson is claiming he ran as a non-partisan under the Liberal banner, and everything that constitutes, Emerson essentially ran as a fraud. You cannot run under the banner of a party and defend them against another party if you're running as a non-partisan with no allegiance. Effectively, Emerson has just admitted to deceiving his constituents and accepted funds and support from those wanting to elect a Liberal. This is tantamount to fraud and theft. Emerson has essentially admitted to being ethically void and he has no defence for his actions.

Blogging Conservaties Not the Only People Upset...

The Globe and Mail has printed a great article, Tory MPs riled by Harper's outsiders. It's very relieving that Conservative MPs are also expressing their disappointment with the hypocrisy of their leader. Now, whether or not this makes some sort of difference in regards to Emerson and Fortier remains to be seen (it's very doubtful). One MP was quoted as saying, "This looks like expediency, even hypocrisy... This is shocking. It's just unbelievable. Who was Stephen talking to? We campaigned against this kind of stuff," Another said, "I'm not sure how I'm going to explain these appointments to my constituents. It's bewildering." To answer the first MPs question: Stephen was talking to Michael Fortier, the organizer-turned-cabinet minister/senator after making the decision he didn't want to run for parliament. Turns out the advice he was passing out was not only in conflict with many views of the CPC but also somewhat undemocratic. Obviously Fortier was the right choice for the cabinet. To respond to the second MP: In the scope of things you don't owe your constituents any explanation, your anonomous quote to a national paper is telling in itself. It is Harper that owes your constituents the real explanation. However, Emerson apparently owes more than just an explanation to his. After facing the firing squad of Vancouver-Kingsway, he'll still need to pay back the $96,755 debt he owes to his riding.

February 07, 2006

Emerson's Reason Just As Poor as Harper's Hyprocrisy

The Globe and Mail's article, Reynolds brokered Emerson's right turn, contains a quote from Emerson explaining his reason for switching parties. In it Emerson muses,

"If I'm going to be in politics for another couple of years anyway, how can I be most effective? How can I serve my riding, how can I serve B.C. and Vancouver..?"

It's interesting that he would say he could better serve his riding (Vancouver-Kingsway) and generally both B.C. and Vancouver. With the exception of B.C., voters in both his riding and Vancouver overall believed their needs were better served voting for the Liberals and the NDP, not the Conservatives.

One of the biggest problems with this is that it wasn't as if there were many people that believed the Liberals were going to form the government let alone the NDP. However, the people of Vancouver, including Emerson's riding, still thought it best to have the Liberals and the NDP represent their interests in the House. If they wanted to show they had any interest in being represented by the Conservatives his riding wouldn't have voted them third with almost half the votes that the second place NDP received. For Emerson to argue that he can better represent his riding and Vancouver by making the move is completely disingenuous and wrong and amounts to nothing more than a move made in his own self-interest. If Emerson has any real integrity he would step-down and call a by-election and let his constituents decide who they want to represent them.

February 06, 2006

Who else did they try to woo?

When Harper was asked about representation for Toronto he cited having Jim Flaherty in his cabinet. Let's be honest, having a member from Whitby representing Toronto isn't much different than having someone from Hamilton or even London representing Toronto. Just by the fact that Torontonians elect red-Liberals and Dippers and Whitby elects Conservatives shows there is a great divide between the two regions. It is also indicative of how much Harper knows about the dynamics of Toronto and the GTA. However, despite the hyprocisy and the lies, I'm willing to give Harper (a little) more credit. I have very little doubt that Harper also tried wooing MPs from the Toronto and Montreal centres. It'll be interesting to know if he possibly gave someone like Ken Dryden a call, though most likely Alan Tonks because he is somewhat socially conservative. Tonks would have most likely been a target because of this. Montreal isn't to be so clear because there is big mix of Liberals and Bloc members. Because of the Bloc's tendency to be left-wing and separitists it is likely that Harper skipped asking any of them to jump ship. However, even with the Liberal members in Montreal, it is hard pick any of them out because many have very progressive positions and/or have been long-time Liberals. The only one that seems to be out of the mix is Massimo Pacetti. Only time will tell if anyone admits to being offered deals to cross the floor and see how far the Conservatives hyprocisy really goes.

A Surprising Reaction from some Conservatives

Taking a quick glance over at Blogging Tories reveals that not all conservatives are supportive of neither of Harper's hypocritical moves - buying Emerson's loyalty and appointing Fortier to the senate. To get a sense of what some conservatives initial reaction was there are already two new blogs set up asking for Emerson to enter a by-election: Remove Emerson and Elect Emerson. Both of these blogs have been setup by conservatives and both are asking that Emerson be forced to run in a by-election.

Emerson v. Stronach

It's interesting that the Conservatives cried 'foul!' and then proceeded to call Stronach every derogatory female name they could think of. So what are they calling David Emerson for crossing the floor (err, staying seated since he didn't bother to sit in opposition)? They're calling him Minister. For jumping ship from the Liberals to the Conservatives, David Emerson received the post of Minister of International Trade with responsibilities over the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Some will say that this situation isn't any different than when Stronach jumped to the Liberals and also recieved a cabinet job. However, there are differences between these two incidences. When Stronach decided she was going to switch parties, it came as a surprise to few who had been following politics closely. It was not a well kept secret that Harper had been having conflicts with those of his party that were still more-alligned with the centre then the far-right. Stronach was amongst those that was known to be displeased with Harper's direction with the Conservatives. She also made it known that she believed the Liberals' NDP budget, which was arguably a budget for the lower and middle classes, was good for Canadians and that the Conservatives had no intention of supporting it. Nowhere does there seem to be any digression between Emerson and the Liberals. He seems to have been a strong Liberal member and was recently touted to be a possible strong candidate for the Liberal leadership vacancy. Another large difference is that the riding of Newmarket-Aurora, formerly known as York North (until 2003), was known for supporting the Liberals federally. Since 1988 (the last election that Mulroney won), this riding was held by the Liberals until 2004 when it elected Stronach as their first Conservative MP in 15 years. However, Stronach's Conservative victory was far from earth shattering. In the 2004 election Stronach won her riding by less than 700 votes whereas her win in 2006, as a Liberal, was by almost 5000 votes. Not only did she increase her margin of victory over the 2004 election but she also was to increase her total number of votes by approximately 5300 votes. From these numbers and recent past election results, Stronach's riding is seemingly supportive of the Liberals and Stronach most likely was able to win for the Conservatives for being a Stronach (a family with a strong reputation in the riding) and being a more centrist-conservative than on the far-right. By being a Liberal, Stronach only fortified her position in the 2006 election. This is in definite contrast to the situation of Emerson and his riding of Vancouver-Kingsway. Whereas Newmarket-Aurora has a history of being supportive to centrist parties and/or politicians and Stronach herself being more centrist than not made an accepted party switch, David Emerson has definitely defied the wishes of his constituents. Both provincially and federally, Vancouver-Kingsway has been anything but supportive of the right. Provincially, since 1991, this riding has been overwhelmingly been supportive of the NDP with the exception of the 2001 provincial election. Each time the NDP has won, it has done so with a majority of support (50%+1). Federally, this riding has been supportive of the Liberals as of 1997 but prior to that had given a lot of support to the NDP. As well, with the exception of 2000, since 1997 the support for the NDP while coming in second has almost always been a blow-out over any right-wing party. Federally and provincially it would seem then that this riding, politically, is very much centre-left. And it's because of this that Emerson's floor-crossing is very much a slap in the faces of the voters whereas Stronach's party-change was more inline with her constituents' position. It is likely that if Emerson had run as a Conservative he wouldn't have won which is quite a different story from that of Stronach. A third difference is that when Stronach crossed she did so a year after being elected. During the course of that year she, arguably, had tried to keep the Progressive Conservative wing of the party alive and well within the new Conservative Party of Canada. She has admitted she ultimately failed and that the CPC would eventually become overly right-wing. It was essentially because of this Stronach joined the Liberals, a party that better reflected her own personal stances. However, she did honestly run as Conservative in 2004 and represented them and defended them for a year in the House and tried to further the Conservative cause in that time span. Emerson, on the other hand, while initially elected in 2004 as a Liberal and again as a Liberal in 2006, has switched parties before even sitting in the new parliament. As recent as election night Emerson is quoted as saying,

"I'm going to be Stephen Harper's worst enemy,"..."We're going to stir the pot and you better believe we are going to make a heck of a lot of noise."

Emerson had also talked about the rebuilding of the Liberal party and what his role would be in that process. According to the CBC, Emerson also called himself a "small-c Liberal". This then raises some questions. First, if he is still a Liberal, however small-c, why would he jump ship rather than further his own positions as a Liberal? Second, whereas Stronach sat as an elected Conservative only to be re-elected as a Liberal, how can constituents trust they elected Emerson in good faith as a Liberal in the last election? Third, whereas Stronach's conflicts with the Conservatives preceded her switch, how can Emerson's switch not be seen as opportunistic? (No, the last question is not rhetorical, but one that is hopeful of an actual answer) I think it's too easy for people to look at Emerson's switch as a reversal of Stronach's 2005 move. There are some clear differences, not only in the situations surrounding the changes but also in the motives. Whereas one was changing to bring herself and her constituency to a party that better represented them, the other has made a change in defiance of his own stated positions and definitely in the positions of his constituents. While this move may have been encouraged by that of Stronach (and even that of Scott Brison), its rationale is wholly new.

February 03, 2006

You're not somebody until compared with Hitler...

This is not the most serious of posts, but I came across some interesting articles today while reading about Hugo Chavez v. Rumsfeld. I googled Rumsfeld +Hitler thinking I would get the full speech where Rumsfeld compares Chavez to Hitler. What I came across was a list of people that Rumsfeld and Bush have compared to Hitler, not just Chavez. While this list is wholly misguided, a couple are much more warranted then the others. al-Zarqawi, Lenin, Chavez, Saddam, Osama There is even an interesting article where Rumsfeld compares the US military with the Third Reich. It doesn't stop there though. There are scores of people who have compared others and been compared by others to Hitler. It seems as though you're not somebody until the comparison has been made. North Korea and Senator Belefonte have compared Bush to Hitler. John Glenn compared Republican policies to those of the Nazis. Donald Trump called Pat Buchanan a "Hitler Lover". This is only a few that I found. But I think the point is clear (or maybe not). It doesn't matter if you're male or female, young or old, black, white red or blue, conservative, liberal or socialist. It would seem that if you have a differing opinion from someone else then you must be like Hitler or a Nazi in some way. The problem is however, if everyone can be compared to Hitler, then what exactly was Hitler like? For a more complete (though still inadequate) list go here.

February 02, 2006

Ontario Solar Power Plan: Some Numbers

I thought it would be useful to provide some figures about costs and production in regards to using solar panels in a household. Most of the numbers I'm posting are from Wikipedia (here and here). I've provided a quick reference first for those who don't want to read my poor technical explanations below. However, I would encourage people to check them out and make sure I'm accurate, or close enough.

Quick Reference
  • aproximate average cost of solar panels(SP) = $5.71CDN/watt
  • average amount of watt power produced by SP = 21W/square metre
  • avg. watt-hours produced in 1 day (12 sunlight hours) = 252 Wh/square metre
  • avg. watt-hours used to heat residential home = 8600Wh (8.6kWh)
  • approx. number of panels needed to cover winter heating needs = 33 square metres
  • approx. cost to install system to cover heating power consumption = $4000CDN

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Explanation

The approximate cost of purchasing and installing solar panels is $3-$7 (US figures) per watt. Based on today's currency exchange rate of $0.87, the approximate cost would be $3.43 - $8.01 per watt. At middle-northern latitudes, at their most efficient, the amount of energy solar panels can produce on average is somewhere between (in watt hours) 12W - 30W/square metre (depending mainly on season). If Ontarians could generate these averages (average of 21W) it would take too many to be reasonably done with a residential home. According to a 1997 survey done by Natural Resources Canada, a household that heats through an electricity/natural gas combination (the majority of houses in Canada) uses approxiamtely 8.6kWh of electricity for heat in the winter. At this rate it would take 409 square metres to heat your house... or would it? Households' energy consumption is based on kilowatt hours (kWh). This is related to, but not the same as kilowatts. This figure is based on the number of items being used x their energy rating x the number of hours used for. For example, if I were to use three 20W lightbulbs for three hours, the amount of energy being consumed is actually 180 watt hours (180Wh). * 3 (bulbs) x 20W x 3 hours = 180Wh If a household were to have three square metres of solar panels capable of producing 21W/square metre, then over a period of 12 sunlight hours they could produce roughly 756Wh. * 3 (panels) x 21W x 12 hours = 756Wh With these figures in mind, to heat an average Canadian house in the winter it would take approxiamtely 33 square metres of panels, not 406. The cost to put such a system in place would be approximately $4000CDN. * $5.72 (3.43+8.01/2) x 21W/square metre x 33 square metres = $3963.96 It's hard to say how long it would take a person to recoup this cost because these numbers are based on averages and estimates, not actuals. As well, the $4000 figure is also just for heating your home int he winter, not running any lights or using utilities. Some numbers floating around the net put the actual cost, of installing a system that covers all your electricity needs and provide you with excess, closer to $10000+. However this figure may be very liberal.

McGuinty Finally Does Something Smart

Ontario Offers Cash for Solar Power It's been announced today that the Ontario provincial government will begin allowing residents to earn money for using solar panels in their house. During the last Ontario election this was an idea that McGuinty tossed around. However, it's better late than never to act on it - especially for an idea that is quite smart. When it was initially talked about McGuinty talked about having homes install electricity metres that could both read energy flow coming into a residence as well as going out. I assume that these metres will soon be available if this plan actually comes into existence. I say this with some hesitation because there is actually no official plan or policy in place as of yet, only some talk. Given the Ontario government's latest electricity announcements, mainly based around throwing more money into Ontario's nuclear reactors (which at first glance, seemingly use that money as fuel with the amount they consume), this solar panel plan actually makes sense. It provides an incentive for people to install the solar panels because they would be eligible use them to earn extra cash for their excess power. While this excess is limited 10 megawatts, it's still more than a house probably requires. This is exactly the type of innovative thinking that McGuinty should continue to look at to produce more energy in Ontario. Scrap the giant gas plants and the continued wasting of public money on nuclear plants. If we're going to be concerned with smog and other air pollutants, then obviously fossil-fuels aren't the way to go. And with Ontario also announcing that it can't afford to cut taxes, money has also become a concern for the province. We have to remember it was the nuclear plants, built by former Liberal premier David Peterson, that put Ontario Hydro in the red in the first place and gave the Harris Tories the justification to create the semi-private system we live under now. Innovation is exactly what Ontario needs and will be the real saviour of our energy problems.

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)

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