We’re pleased to welcome newly-elected provincial NDP leader Gary Burrill to the Examineradio studios. He speaks about how his years as an ordained minister helped to inform his political platform, what the provincial Liberal government’s policies are doing to its most vulnerable citizens, and what the previous NDP regime got right — and where they missed the mark.
Also, as the Chronicle Herald strike drags into week six, head Game-Changer™ Mark Lever is a no-show at an event put together to keep young workers in the province. Of course, the Grey Lady of Argyle Joe Howe has pushed significant pay cuts, longer hours, outsourced gigs and increased advertorial content, so maybe he realized he didn’t have anything of value to offer young grads.
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Gary Burrill seems a reasonable, thoughtful, compassionate, and forthright human being, which is a combination not often seen in successful politicians. This might doom him to failure but I earnestly hope it is a new recipe for success. It sounds like he has the policy chops and the communication skills to make a strong social democratic argument for change.
I’d like to hear more but, at first blush, I think a Burrill-led NDP is one I can support without reservation (especially given the alternatives are a confused, often malicious incumbent and an ineffectual official opposition that stands a good chance of being even worse if entrusted with power).
If he believes and was telling voters that the Dexter government was still the best choice in 2013, he’s truly delusional. Enjoy the wilderness for a long time coming.
Also, he has no idea what austerity is, except that he heard the film people screaming it (who also have no idea what austerity is), and decided it makes a good boogeyman story. We don’t even have austerity lite in Canada. Is this ever going to be a gong show.
Austerity is a state of reduced spending and increased frugality in the financial sector. Austerity measures generally refer to the measures taken by governments to reduce expenditures in an attempt to shrink their growing budget deficits.
In Britain the Church of England was known as ‘The Tory party at prayer’.
In Canada it is safe to assume the United Church is ‘The NDP at prayer’
Tim, this was a fantastic interview. I came to appreciate Gary just recently, but must say that he’s a true gem! We will be very lucky when he’s solidly in a seat and able to articulate – as he does so well – a new vision for NS, which is so badly needed. I still can’t fathom what has happened to the Liberals in this province, they seem to have lost their way really badly – they’re in the ‘wilderness’ I suppose one could say!
Yes, the McNeil government are in the wilderness as you say and with no spirit or logic accompanying them there. Not only were they in the wilderness on the film tax credit advantage to the economy and other issues, but in two recent commentaries the premier made in the media on 1/ carbon pricing and 2/ on the high price of electricity being the result of what the private utility NS Power has done to get off of coal, the premier has obfuscated these issues In the case of carbon pricing, Premier McNeil said in an article in the Chronicle Herald regarding carbon pricing “We don’t want to punish people twice!” and recently indicated at the conference with the prime minister that he doesn’t support carbon pricing. In response to this, I am including a letter written to the finance minister by my colleague, Betsy Webb:
To: The Honouarble Randy Delorey
From: Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Canada – Halifax
Re: Upcoming budget, Carbon pricing
Dear Mr. Delorey,
Thank you very much for your commitment to our province and your hard work to improve things for Nova Scotians. I particularly thank you for meeting with our group last month to discuss carbon pricing, as well as inviting us to write to you about the upcoming budget. And thank you for bring the knowledge and spirit from COP21 to your new role as finance minister.
We know that carbon pricing is coming as a country. This is our opportunity to pick the method of pricing that will help our province/region the most. I understand that it may be most effective to have one carbon pricing scheme for Atlantic Canada. Let’s keep talking with the other Atlantic provinces and together get a plan soon, to help all of us. Shawn McCarthy in The Globe and Mail said last week that Ottawa intends to have a nation-wide carbon pricing soon. Let us lead our region in the discussion and action to get Canada back.
I want to start by setting out 4 principles that are important in assessing any carbon pricing method. I will call these Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Halifax (CCL-Hfx) criteria.
Firstly, it needs to be effective. The pricing needs to lead to businesses and citizens choosing to limit GHG emissions. The Federal Government has said we need the planet to limit warming to 1.5ºC. And Nova Scotia is quite at risk for the effects of global warming, be it sea level rise, hurricane increases or crazy winters like last one. For us to hold to that limit economists such as Dave Sawyer show that we need to raise our carbon pricing to $150-180/tonne by 2030. The price can start moderately small, but needs to rise rather quickly to get to that level. Therefore, it is important to pick a method of pricing that can do that.
Secondly, our carbon pricing plan needs to be fair. Many Nova Scotians are struggling financially. Any carbon pricing scheme should not be instituted on the backs of the poor, including the working poor. Carbon pricing will increase prices of gasoline, home heating oil, food, and anything moved in Nova Scotia. It also should include all forms of fossil fuel emissions, rather than picking and choosing between different industries. Please be aware of low/middle income Nova Scotians when you look at different schemes.
Thirdly, let’s have a cost-effective and efficient form of pricing. The more complicated a pricing form is, the more it will cost to administer. Administrative costs are an important pro/con to consider when looking at different plans.
Fourthly, any method should be transparent to all parties – those corporations paying the bulk of the costs, those businesses paying smaller parts but still paying, and individuals in Nova Scotia, both those at the upper end of the income scale and those at the lower end. Different schemes are very different in terms of their transparency factor.
These principles are similar to the ones that Elizabeth Beale of the Eco-fiscal Commission outlined in her talk at Dalhousie University in January. Her 5 principles are the following:
1) Broad coverage is essential, and who pays matters.
2) Will this be a new revenue source, or will it be revenue neutral?
3) The cap or carbon price has to be sufficiently stringent to ensure a decrease in emissions.
4) Revenue recycling will depend on needs of individual jurisdictions. She said as electricity costs in Nova Scotia are almost the highest in Canada that Nova Scotia would need to allocate more money to low income people or there will be much greater inequality.
5) How to help vulnerable sectors adjust can be tricky, but it is not impossible. There can be temporary rebates or other assistance for specific sectors.
Keeping these principles in mind, both from Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) and from Elizabeth Beale, I will make the argument why Nova Scotia (the Atlantic provinces) should choose Carbon Fee and Dividend for our carbon pricing scheme. The first reason is that this will be good politics, reframing the discussion of carbon pricing from a tax to a dividend for residents. As economist at Dalhousie University Lars Osberg says:
The Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal is that a fee or carbon price be charged per ton of CO2 equivalent emissions for all greenhouse gas emissions and that all fee revenue would be refunded as an equal cash dividend to all citizens3. It is framed as a “fee” rather than as a “tax” because the underlying idea is enforcing compensation for a property right4 – it is not taxation, whose purpose is to transfer resources to the control of government. The moral rationale is that collectively, we all own the air, so those who use and degrade the air (i.e. GHG emitters) should compensate those who own it (i.e. citizens) for the damage they are causing. By reframing carbon fee revenue as deserved compensation for degradation of the property of citizens, a CFD shifts the focus of debate fundamentally.5 It therefore has a crucial advantage over other carbon pricing proposals – it just may catch the imagination of enough voters to become good politics, as well as good policy.
Previous superscript 3, 4 and 5 are his footnotes. See his paper p.3
As you can see, that would make carbon pricing more palatable for all voters, both lower and higher income ones.
The Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal does well on the four CCL-Hfx criteria, as will as on Elizabeth Beale’s criteria (E.B.) on which any carbon pricing should be evaluated.
CCL-Hfx 1) Effectiveness: Carbon Fee and Dividend can be incredibly effective if it starts at a relatively low price and rises steadily. The government will continue to have support from residents to keep raising it as they are getting dividends of increasing size. It will be attractive to industry as it is predictable. This criterion is the same as Elizabeth Beale’s third one. This also overlaps with Elizabeth Beale’s first one: Who pays matters. Carbon Fee and Dividend would be applied at the well-head, the coal mine, the tanker or the pipe-line as the green house gas intensive fuel enters our economy. There are a small number of companies involved and it would effect just about all fossil fuel emissions. Carbon Fee and Dividend is much simpler and more inclusive than either BC’s carbon tax or Quebec’s cap and trade system.
CCL-Hfx-2) Fairness (4 and 5 of Elizabeth Beale’s criteria): Carbon Fee and Dividend would help more Nova Scotian residents than it harms. The lowest 2 quintiles of income earners would all come out getting more money from the dividend than the added costs to them from increased gas, heating oil and transportation prices. The middle quintile would come out about even. Only the upper 2 quintiles would spend more than they received, but they could change that by limiting their GHG emissions (insulating better, adding solar, using a hybrid car, etc.).
CCL-Hfx 3) Cost-effective and efficient: As I said in 1) above, applying the fee is simple and wouldn’t need much administration to apply it to all fossil fuels entering the economy. Delivery of the dividend could be simple and link with HST quarterly cheques making for a very small administrative cost.
CCL-Hfx 4) Transparent: This system can be completely transparent.
To now address Elizabeth Beale’s points not addressed above:
E.B. 2) Revenue source or revenue neutral: Carbon Fee and Dividend is designed to be revenue neutral. However, it is also designed for the dividend to be taxable income. That would add revenue to the province/region. I know that some LSE, World Bank and IMF economists are promoting not allocating the revenues from carbon pricing in advance, but we have to remember the residents of Nova Scotia, and the levels to which we need to raise the carbon price to make it really effective. In order to raise those prices in a province with many citizens struggling economically and maintain the political will to keep doing it, we can’t be punishing those same citizens. Designing whatever carbon pricing scheme to be revenue neutral and to pay that money back to our residents will keep political will on our side.
E.B. 5) Adjustments for vulnerable sectors: Carbon Fee and Dividend with its revenue neutrality doesn’t inherently address this. We could alter it so it does. However, changing it a bit invites everyone to ask for alterations for their sector. Additionally, Nova Scotian businesses are predominantly small businesses that would not be impacted greatly by it at first. Small business owners in Nova Scotia are justly concerned that they already pay high taxes and have a low profit margin. However, an economic study of Carbon Fee and Dividend in the US showed there was a big economic stimulus from having all the dividend money going into the hands of the people. The economy was boosted, many jobs were created and GHG emissions plummeted.
In our many recent years of people telling us the trickle-down economy works, it is now clear economies relying on that are struggling, and the differences between the highest income receivers and the rest of us are growing. On the other hand, putting money into the hands of middle and lower income people gets more money into local economies.
So please, Randy Delorey, consider leading Nova Scotians into a strong, specific, Nova Scotian focused carbon pricing scheme. Let us not wait for the federal government to impose something that may not fit us. Let us design and implement something that will work well here. Please remember the principles above, both of CCL-Halifax and of Elizabeth Beale of the Eco-fiscal Commission. Thank you again for inviting our input into this process.
Betsy Webb, Citizens Climate Lobby, Canada – Halifax
 McCarthy, Shawn. The Globe and Mail, “Ottawa seeks to set national minimum on carbon pricing”, Feb 17, 2016.
Beale, Elizabeth, “Carbon Pricing in Canada: Why We Need It”, Dalhousie University, 28 January 2016
Osberg, Lars. “We All Own the Air: Why a Carbon Fee and Dividend Makes Sense for Canada”, prepared for Eco-fiscal Commision, July, 2015, p.3.
Op cit. p. 16
In the case of the slant the premier took on the high cost of electricity, I am including a letter written by Halifax writer, business owner and activist, Peggy Cameron on this topic.
Premier McNeil is wrong in his assertion that the high price for electricity that Nova Scotians pay is as a result of what the private utility Nova Scotia Power has done to get off of coal. This was his line in an interview with CBC’s The House on December 19 and then on Saturday March 5th “The House” host referenced NS and Premier McNeil and his position that Nova Scotians already pays high “hydro” costs because of all the work they’ve done to stop burning coal.
Nova Scotia electricity has been perceived as high for decades with almost annual rate increases because of the increased cost of the fuel- coal. The term “hydro” is a misnomer as the majority of electricity in coal-based. Until the utility was sold by the conservative Premier Donald Cameron in the early 1990s coal was mined in Nova Scotia. The disastrous Westray was opened and a number of strip mines are still operated in an attempt to feed the coal fired generators. Since privatization the coal is primarily imported- a lot of it “blood-coal” from Colombia and it is often mixed with cheap nasty petroleum coke. For many years the utility exported its share of Nova Scotia’s Sable Gas project to the US for profit.
Over the past decade as a result of targets set by previous governments the utility has done a good job of increasing wind energy production and also ensuring that it owns the majority of the projects. But the province has not increased these targets for reduction of GHGs nor advanced the dates for shutting down the coal-fired generating plants.
And yet Premier McNeil seems to be effectively spreading a myth that NS already pays a high-price for electricity because of all the things we’ve done in putting some renewable energy in place and that this is an impediment to more aggressive action towards reduction in fossil fuel use.
Premier McNeil is not improving either the discourse or the efforts to get off fossil fuels. His government cancelled the Comfit, our only programme for adding independent renewable production and it recently changes regulations on netmetering so that interconnected private independent power producers will be charged for all electricity they use. His provincial government is permitting the opening of a new Cape Breton coal mine and has approved an underground gas storage project next to the major Stewiacke River which the local Mi’kmaq oppose because of unnecessary risk to the environment. The McNeil government has commissioned a study for private twinning of highways without comparing it to other options such as commuter rail and it supports the controversial Energy East pipeline when it could be promoting an East-West Electricity Grid. And his government has failed to address the very serious impact of biomass burning on all woodlots but especially hardwood forests.
As in other provinces, awareness about climate change, VOCs, NOx, SOx, mercury etc. has put many citizens ahead of government in their desire to get off fossil fuels. And in Nova Scotia most citizens agree that green jobs and green energy, energy efficiency and better public transportation not only are the way of the future but offer better return on investment and jobs.
Its time to stop playing victim and using political rhetoric and spin to keep us from getting the county on a track that most of us already accept as the right direction. Please challenge the myths and focus on the solutions.