Are the NDP Out of Their Minds?

Or are they just out of touch?

I just received a questionnaire in the mail from Gord Johns, my local member of parliament. The questions, I presume, are to give the lowly constituents some say in the future policies of the NDP, however the questions are also an insight into the priorities of Jagmeet and his kindred souls.

The questionnaire starts with the fearful :

“Heatwaves, forest fires, and flooding is [sic] the new reality in communities across the country.”

then applies the foreboding:

“Canada is falling behind in supporting a move towards renewable energy.”

followed by outrage:

“Trudeau is giving billions in taxpayer dollars to fossil fuel companies.”

concluding with the sales job;

“New Democrats are fighting to … eliminate fossil fuel subsidies by the end of [this year]”

At first I thought a friend was having me on, an April 1st joke delayed in the mail. How could it be possible that from a myriad of emergent problems, the NDP settled on the dusty old boogyman of climate change?  Any of the others would be worthy, from lifting of Charter rights, the trampling of protestors, the loss of parliamentary democracy, the use of imported goons to beat on Canadians, the continuing absurd mandates, hyper printing the money supply and the resulting inflation, the emergency measures act, propagandizing the media, weaponizing banks against Canadians, conflicts with Russia and China, ongoing supply problems, homelessness, fentanyl  … 

Can the NDP expect Canadians to be more concerned with a hypothetical 1.5ºC of warming and an inch or two of sea level rise over the next three generations than with the losses of economy, security, quality of life, and rights and freedoms that are occurring right now?

In the questionnaire there is a list of feel good priorities that can be ticked off and mailed back. These include:

• Stop sending taxpayer dollars to the oil and gas industry

• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% … by 2030

• Invest in a million good jobs in Canada

• Retrofit all buildings by 2050

• Modernize and expand low-carbon and electric public transit

• All new cars sold by 2035 are zero-emission vehicles

No weighing of pros or cons, either check the box or not. There is no option to disagree, no option for none of the above. A questionnaire to solicit approval and obviate opposition. Each of these NDP priorities has ramifications:

At the centre of things is the zero-emission vehicles fallacy. How do you mine the iron, copper, petroleum, lithium, and rare earth metals then produce the plastics, steel, aluminum, electric motors, tires, safety glass, and electronics, then transport these products around the world without emissions? Near zero emissions from electrical production are possible if you live where there is abundant hydro or nuclear but several provinces get their electricity primarily from fossil fuels. Recharging your vehicles with fossil fuel electricity just transfers the emissions from your tailpipe to the smokestack. Comparing a Tesla 3 getting 23% of its electricity from fossil fuels, with a gasoline powered Toyota Corolla, the breakeven in emissions occurs at 21,725 km. With 100% fossil fuel electricity the breakeven is 78,700 km. Certainly not zero emissions but eventually there are savings as long as the batteries maintain their efficiency and don’t need replacing. 

If you are well off you can probably afford an electric car. Friends that have Chevy Bolts or Teslas use them as short range vehicles and have a backup IC car for those longer trips. On the other hand, if you can’t afford the electric vehicle the NDP are planning for improved public transit. Just think, you won’t have to wait while the car recharges, just wait for the bus to arrive and endure all those stops and wayward routes as you are chauffeured to work. No more weekend excursions for you.

Changing to electric vehicles will reduce Canada’s emissions only slightly and add lots of inconvenience to long distance travel. To get to the magic 50% reduction will mean reducing the emissions of industry. Some companies have done this by off-shoring, moving the industry to a country with less stringent standards. Not good for environmental standards or those well paying Canadian jobs.

But to increase those good jobs the NDP plans to retrofit all those poorly insulated buildings. This sounds like a government make work project, spending millions to get thousands back. Governments don’t have good track records in running businesses and increasing insulation in buildings is very costly and gives only a small return on investment. It sounds like the NDP is planning to remove ’subsidies’ from the highly profitable petroleum industry and increase the subsidies to a low return retrofit.

The NDP questionnaire fact checks that the government subsidies for oil and gas companies give “14 times more money … than to renewable energy initiatives”. The magnitude of these subsidies is debatable. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) makes a case that these are not subsidies but tax measures that allow petroleum companies to write off costs at a rate that is actually much less than other major players in the Canadian economy. 

Other groups calculate subsidies as any rebates that make home heating bills cheaper or tax deductions or exemptions that lower fuel costs. The subsidies include lower royalties and interest rates and tax exemptions for research and environmental cleanups. The calculation of subsidies can also include the health costs of increased pollution and the hypothetical costs of global warming.

With all of these imponderables, the estimates of subsidies can range from $0 (CAPP) to $4.5 billion (OECD) to $18 billion (Environmental Defence) to $81 billion (IMF). But it really doesn’t matter, the petroleum industry is a money maker, paying over $11 billion in taxes each year and getting $3.2 billion in deductions. Petroleum is what has kept Alberta in the black for 50 years and made Newfoundland/Labrador into a have province. So goes petroleum so goes the Canadian economy; if the ‘subsidies’ were huge the more petroleum pumped the weaker the economy but that just isn’t so. Tax incentives (aka subsidies) may be well spent if they stimulate growth and a good return on investment. The reason that there is not as much spent on renewables is that without subsidies these intermittent energies would have poor returns on investment.

While India and China build their coal plants and dominate the world’s economy, Canada commits economic suicide for the virtue of perhaps, maybe, lessening climate change. And to what end? Just the two cities of Beijing and Shanghai together have 50 million residents, much greater than all of Canada’s 38 million. Tokyo by itself has as many people as all of Canada. Why is it Canada that must lead while major polluters get on with increasing their wealth, major polluters that must laugh at our folly. The climate policies of Canada are a fart in a hurricane with the potential of destroying our futures for an imperceptible gain.

Canadians need fiscal responsibility and yet the NDP are planning to strangle the golden goose of black petroleum, to print and spend on uncertain ventures with dubious returns, weakening and devaluing the dollar, causing economic hardships to the very workers who used to support them.

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