Listen Up! Governments are not intended to be Santa Claus

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Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

Earlier this week, I came across a post on Facebook that intrigued me. It was written by a guy named J.D.M. Stewart. I had no idea who he is, but he was ‘liked’ by my friend Roy MacGregor, so I decided to google him. It turns out that J.D.M. Stewart, like MacGregor, is an author and a journalist. He is an expert on Canadian Prime Ministers and has written a book called, Being Prime Minister. He has also written in a number of national newspapers. Here is what he said about the current election cycle we are in.

“I don’t know that I remember an election with so many promises, and quite frankly, a lot of them bullshit. Just promise me to balance a budget, address climate change, help the well less off in society and don’t be an egotistical jerk while in office, and I might vote for your Party.”

BINGO! I could not have said it better myself.  Governments are not intended to be Santa Claus. They cannot be and should not be, all things to all people. They exist, at least they should exist, to manage our financial and natural resources, protect our infrastructure, keep us safe, look after those who cannot look after themselves and provide support for the elderly and for families who are struggling to get ahead and want desperately to make a contribution in an increasingly turbulent society.  That’s pretty much it. Otherwise, Government should stay out of our lives, especially our bedrooms and as much as possible, out of our pocket- books.

So, let’s look at a couple of those things and start with a balanced budget. The Federal Government spends a staggering amount of money, our money, just paying interest on its debt. And yet the current government just keeps giving money away.

In his first three months as Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau made $4.2 billion in financial commitments to be spent outside of Canada. Skipping to the last three months of this term of office, his Government has made spending promises to Canadians exceeding $10 billion. And to put icing on the cake, Mr. Trudeau announced just this week, that a future Liberal Government, using taxpayer’s money,  would provide $2000 in travel bursaries to send Canadians camping, a move that national journalist John Ivason, said, “might be the stupidest thing I’ve heard so far in this election”.

All of this, with a deficit much higher than the Liberals promised, adding to a growing national debt of almost $700 billion, a debt, that will unchecked, eventually see our economy collapse and beat climate change to the punch, when it comes to choking future generations to death. It’s that important, and in spite of the short-term pain, any political party that does not have a plan to move quickly to a balanced budget, should not be elected.

I also believe that any government we elect should have an effective plan to deal with climate change and the pollution of our environment.  The key word here is ‘effective’.  To date, I haven’t really seen any political party that has a tough strategy that deals with the reality of our economy and the related need to protect our environment.

Climate change is real, and it is not new. The hard truth, is that climate change is inevitable. It started when the world began, long before humans were here, and it will continue until the world ends. We cannot stop it, but we can slow it down and over time, we can adapt to the changes we cannot stop.

Some will argue that the carbon tax is an effective way to fight climate change. I wonder about that. I question the carbon tax, not because I don’t take climate change and pollution control seriously, but because I do. I have seen no real evidence of the effectiveness of a carbon tax and I wonder why half the Provinces in Canada are against it?

The carbon tax has been in effect for industry, for nine months and for individuals since April. Why, especially in an election period, have we not seen any empirical evidence that our carbon footprint has been reduced by one iota?  My fear is that the carbon tax is more of a smoke screen, to give the appearance of fighting for our environment, without having to face some of the really hard decisions that would actually protect it.

So, what might some of these be? Plastics are a good example. They are a terrible pollutant. There has been talk about dealing with them, but no concrete, time- limited, plan for legislation that would seek biodegradable alternatives and ban plastic for any domestic use.

Instead of taxing people to protect the environment, when we don’t know where the money really goes, we should fine the abusers, and I mean really fine them like they do in a number of countries. In Singapore, you go to jail for spitting on the sidewalk.  I’m not sure we should go that far, but we should have heavy fines, heavy enough to make people think twice before they foul up our environment in any way.  The same goes for the industrial world. Set reasonable carbon and pollution levels, insist on the latest technology to minimize emissions and then fine the crap out of those that do not comply.

We also have to do more than just talk about how important protecting our environment is to future generations. We have to convince them, at least those that are here now, to come to the party.  I watched the youth “climate change strike” around the world this week and was actually at the one in Huntsville. They were impressive and I am sure most of them were sincere. Activism is one thing, and I know it is important.  But actual action is even more so.

I noticed countless iPhones at the youth rally in Huntsville. How about challenging everyone, including our young generations, to cut the use of their electronic devices, most especially cell phones, in half. That would substantially reduce the amount of beryllium, tantalum, arsenic and copper, all toxins, leaking into our environment.  And maybe, a few times a week, bring a sandwich to school instead of frequenting the fast-food joints. And if you live a few miles or so from school, try walking. That would be good both for you and the environment. Don’t just blame the old farts. Take some responsibility yourselves.

Balancing a federal budget is hard. Effective control of our environment is tough. Changing our personal habits, no matter our age, can be a pain in the butt. But is it a necessary price to pay, in this time of an unprecedented quality of life?

You bet your booties it is.

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17 Comments

  1. The current election seems to be a contest to see who can buy the most votes with the taxpayers money. It will be interesting, if nothing else, to see which party wins the spending contest.

  2. I’m just happy to hear someone else say global warming is not going to stop just because we want it to it’s been happening for to long. I do wish there was something we could do about pollution But I’m not sure anyone has the balls to do what has to be done and pass the hard laws to make companies and people do it. i personally think the biggest problem we face in the world is the chemical companies. Everything we eat the air we breath are all full of chemicals of some kind but we keep spraying it around our homes and all over our bodies in our cars and then our towns spay it all along the roads to kill the weeds farmers spay i all over the crops where it soaks into the soil and whatever is planted there grows it right into it. I also think we should stop flying all over the world jet aircraft are the worst polluters far worse than cars and trucks and they pollute the sky and then it settles all over us.

  3. S. Derek Shelly on

    Part of the problem is that the “I” factor outweighs everything else. Too many of us want the other guy to pay so many of us can benefit. It would be nice if the polluter paid just don’t increase the price of gasoline for my tank, What can one person do?” we ask, and the answer is often “not much” so I do little or nothing. Too often we just play follow the leader and either like him or her but don’t do much ourselves.

    • Well I think your about right I agree don’t go taxing my gas and heating fuel the price of that is to high now when your on a fixed income and I have to drive to pick up food if I want to eat so there is only so much we can do.I guess we can try to make a few less trips into town but other than that I have no idea and most people have to get to work and most have to drive.

  4. Trudeau’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna,
    Inadvertently said when questioned about her environmental policy, “but we have to get elected first”.
    They will do and say and spend whatever it takes to win power. Then they can do what they want.
    What a depressing thought.
    The environment is important of course. And all the freebies being dangled in front of the gullible voters need to be paid for. But what the heck. Just borrow more!
    We need legislation removing from office any candidate who doesn’t carry out their promises within two years. That would force some realism upon these dolts and they would stick to doable policy.
    Best go and meditate for awhile and chill.

  5. Michael Mackenzie on

    Call me naïve – but I still believe if either party could put forward a real leader who could articulate a real plan for Canada while ignoring the polls, their handlers and the endless pandering to special interests that Canadians would get behind them. Buying votes is simply expensive and irresponsible- but unfortunately not out dated.

  6. Murray Christenson on

    Try as I might Hugh, I couldn’t find anything to disagree with here! The lone possible exception was your plastic comment…I don’t believe in a total ban as personally, I would like to continue buying water in plastic bottles. I am however, a serial recycler and what I would prefer is a much better recycling strategy. Some good things are being done with recycled plastic…the Muskoka chairs on my dock for one…and I’d rather see that than more new plastic be manufactured.
    A comment as well on the farce that is the current Liberal government attempt at buying votes with our own money, a tactic the old Wynne regime tried…and we saw how that worked out. The camping thing is beyond comprehension but, so is the “promise” to reduce cell phone bills by 25%. Of course, Trudeau can’t do that. But the real irony in the whole thing is that throughout his tenure, and especially during the campaign so far, Trudeau has tried to demonize Stephen Harper at every opportunity and with the cell phone thing, he is actually stealing a page from Harpers’ playbook! Of course, you’ll remember Mr Harpers battle with the cell phone companies that eventually went on to result in what is now Freedom Mobile as well as a Quebec based carrier. So we got that 4th national service and prices are still what they are. You just have to shake your head at Trudeau as he counts on the uninformed to vote him back into power at any cost.

  7. I certainly agree with your two main tenets: Climate change is a climate crisis; and increasing our debt is a looming financial crisis. I don’t, however, agree that a carbon tax is an ineffective initial step. If you remember, it was also the initial step in the States in response to Al Gore’s proselytizing about climate change (and he approved). Your second point is well taken; and I would favour a middle-of-the-road approach between Mr. Trudeau’s largess and Mr. Ford’s draconian, slash-and-burn agenda.
    .
    I have a difficult time, nevertheless, in balancing your desire to help the less well off with your disdain for foreign spending. Canada is a “have” country and has a moral responsibility to help the may “have not” countries. It did break my heart for us to pledge $26.8M to Brazil to fight the rainforest conflagration (and to watch their President continue to fiddle while it burned). Owing to that pledge, we could only offer Barbados $0.5M toward the replacement of their infrastructure (post-Dorian). The camping initiative is silly; but an inexpensive way to force some Canadians to appreciate the environment we have; and will soon lose; without more serious measures.
    .
    The PM has banned single-use plastic bags after 2020, I believe, so that’s an excellent start. The strange thing about students is that they’ll walk several kilometres for their favourite lunch (all the way to Subway, if necessary); but disdain additional exercise unless they’re jocks. Finally, I would question you wasting our limited energy resources to support a $B-company such as Facebook.

  8. Hugh, I share your feelings along with J.D.M Stewart who is a private school teacher in Toronto and a long-time friend of our son. In his book, James talks about teaching Jean Chretien’s grandson in Ottawa and being invited for coffee with the Chretien family at 24 Sussex Drive.

    But as you well know, if you can’t get elected, you can’t implement your ideas. And the fact is that in developed countries most of our basic needs are already well-covered (compared to developing countries), so there is not much left to offer except “boutique” benefits. So that is what all parties offer because unfortunately that is what many voters respond to. So, the only way for us to deal with that reality and frustration is to ignore the petty promises and base our vote on the national priorities which I agree are climate change and fiscal management.

    Debt is not a bad thing, so long as it is the result of investing wisely. Most of us need a mortgage to buy our first home. So far, Canada’s debt to GDP ratio compares favourably with other developed countries. A study by the University of Calgary published in the Sept 30 edition of the Globe said that if Alberta had not been constrained in the oil business, there would have been NO DEFICIT for the past 2 or 3 years. So, what we must do is figure out a responsible way to reduce our high emissions-per-capita footprint while getting a fair price (not the US discounted price) for our abundant energy resources.

    The two biggest sources of Canada’s emissions are oil and gas production at 27% and transportation at 24%. They are interconnected. Just 3 things could reduce Canada’s emissions by 51%, remove the stigma and constraints that overhang the Alberta Oil Sands, and ELIMINATE our annual deficit:
    1. Moving rapidly to electric vehicles that are equal to or better than gas vehicles on every measure
    2. Investing in emerging technologies to ELIMINATE emissions from oil production
    3. Completing the Trans-Mountain and Eagle Spirit pipelines to get our oil to countries that need it and will pay a fair price for it while the global shift to clean energy plays out over the next 3 decades to 2050.

    I will keep an open mind until the last minute and vote for the party most likely to do those 3 things.

    • Sorry Hugh but i don’t see electric vehicles ever replacing gas or something that works as well. The power to keep all the electric cars charged with be worse on the environment than the gas cars are. if it is possible to make an electric car that will run 5 or 6 hundred km on a charge then they might work.

      • Ray, there are already EVs on the market that will go 600 km between charges. That is more than many gas vehicles. But the average vehicle goes 68 km per day and is parked 95 percent of the time.

        • If your right about the 600 kl a day EV. that would be ok I’ve not heard about one. And 65kl might be ok to run around town with but that would be about it and even then I’m not sure how long it takes to recharge . I think the technology will have to improve a lot to work well and the cost will sure have to come down. I have always wondered why they didn’t put solar panels on the roof trunk and hood of the EV’s to charge them while they are sitting in the parking lots.

          • Ray, after investing billions on 50 years of research on alternatives such as ethanol, gas-electric hybrids, and hydrogen fuel cells, the entire global auto industry, without exception, is racing to offer an all Battery-Electric product line by 2025. That is because by 2025, BEVs will be equal to or better than alternatives on every key measure such as environmental impact, sustainable energy supply, energy cost, vehicle cost, maintenance cost, range, fueling convenience, and performance. Today’s EVs are more expensive but that is coming down fast.

            You pay more for more battery range but these examples are available now or very soon:
            The Tesla Model S and 2020 Buick Enspire will go 600 km to Windsor, Montreal or Sault Saint Marie. The Chevy Bolt and Hyundai Kona will go 400 km to Ottawa, London or Timmins. The Nissan Leaf will go 350 km to Toronto, or a week of commuting to Bracebridge.

            The energy cost is 1/3rd of gas vehicles and they will take an 80% recharge in 40 minutes while you stop for lunch. That is why there are now over 4,000 EV charging points in Canada and 20,000 in the USA listed on the convenient On-Line “Ontario EV Charging Directory”. Naturally, most of these are installed by forward-thinking restaurant and motel owners. But most people and businesses will charge at home-base at night when there is lots of power available and rates are down.

            Contractors will soon be able to plug their power tools into their pick-up truck battery instead of running a noisy generator all day. Caterpillar is now building all-electric excavators and John Deere has a 400 HP electric tractor. Edmonton has 50 Battery-Electric busses on order, with first deliveries this year. “The world she is a-changin”

  9. Hugh – A Million dollars starts with One dollar. One dollar starts with a penny. We all have a role to play. We can all do something now. We all need to take responsibility now – for all of your points. A true leader would be exhorting us to do this – not to wait for the handouts and someone else.
    This is our problem – and we own it. Or we pass it to the next generation – in an even worsened state.

    Next time we see that plastic bottle – pick it up, recycle it – repeat.

    It is the only way to get that penny to multiply.

    Great article.

    Don

    • Your right but getting people to pick things up is going to be a task seems most just want to though all there garbage out the car window these days starting with coffee cups If we can reuse beer bottles why can’t we reuse water bottles I fill my own water bottle have never bought bottled water and can see no reason for most people to buy it.

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