By again kicking the existing unfunded pension liabilities down the road, the province has exposed taxpayers to future risks and more bailouts, obvious or hidden. The government has also demonstrated that the theory about political behaviour -- politicians mostly act in their own short-term electoral interest and not in the long-term interest of the public -- is regrettably true more often than not.
It's one thing for SolarShare to get $3 million worth of solar projects going in Ontario under that provinces feed-in tariff program but it's quite another thing altogether to start a community solar program in small town Alberta with no government support. And yet that's exactly where some pretty amazing green energy innovation is occurring.
It's been two decades since the Alberta government exited the business of selling beer, wine and spirits to consumers and the result is vastly improved product selection, better customer service and price-competition. But the President of Ontario's The Beer Store has warned that if Ontario treads this path, there will be more societal problems.
The government/private sector pension disparity is a problem. Defined benefit pensions promise enrollees guaranteed benefits at a certain retirement age. But when existing contributions and the returns hoped for do not materialize, taxpayers without such guarantees must bail out government plans because of the promised benefits.
Standards are also incredibly powerful energy efficiency tools. While it's unlikely that we'll ban top-loading washers like we have incandescent light bulbs, as the price, reliability and efficiency of front-loading washing machines increases the old, inefficient top-loading design will simply fade away.
We're producing so much oil sands crude that we've overwhelmed cross-border pipeline capacity. Now the industry is stuck in a Catch-22. Profit margins have dropped dramatically. To reassure investors, bitumen miners talk about dramatically expanding production. But the more we produce, the more we exacerbate the supply glut.
Since 2009, $380 million has been collected with $212 million of it being invested so far. Of the money that's been spent $98 million has been invested in renewables, $38.7 million in energy efficiency with the rest going to greening fossil fuel production and carbon capture and storage. That's 64 per cent of the money invested so far going into renewables and energy efficiency.
The federal government has recently changed the rules for medical marijuana. The new rules were developed, we are told, as the result of legal challenges that determined that the old ones were defective and made it unreasonably difficult for patients to access marijuana for medical purposes. While the federal government is trying to make things easier, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta is working hard to accomplish the opposite.
To say that rock legend Neil Young has been making waves on his ACFN 'Honour the Treaties' tour would be an understatement. His comments about the horrors of the tar sands have made front-page headlines, set social media ablaze, and have brought out more than a few attacks mostly from stalwarts of the oil industry.
If you're using the Neil Young kerfuffle as a moment to dig your trench a little deeper, remember: if we're going to make progress on energy issues in this country, we're all going to have to stick our heads up, stop seeing the people on the other side of the debate as enemies and find some common ground in the middle.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs to figure out that not everyone is going to agree with him and his government's policies -- and that's okay. Rock legend Neil Young is making his way across Canada this week on a high-profile concert series in support of First Nations who oppose further expansion of oil sands extraction into their lands. Harper, through his spokesperson, responded to Young's concerns with empty talking points, reiterating that the natural resource sector remains a "fundamental part of our country's economy."Okay. Thanks Captain Obvious. Why is it so hard for the Prime Minister to speak with people who disagree with him?
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The basic argument goes like this: A barrel of oil sands crude currently trades at a lower price than other global oil benchmarks. That price gap means Canadians are losing money on every barrel sold. Access to world markets will fetch higher prices, elevating our collective prosperity. It's a persuasive story, tickling the part of the brain associated with loss aversion. No one wants to bleed money day after day. At the same time it paints a picture of one nation, our fortunes rising and falling in unity. It's good politics. But the reality is more complex.