Sunday, February 12, 2012

What To Do With Alberta's Oil

This post is mostly in response to Andrew Leach's response to Elizabeth May regarding refining Alberta oil in Canada. I think most people are over thinking what needs to be done instead of following the KISS principle. So here is my plan. Bear in mind it's a broad plan so while it doesn't contain many details I believe in the broad sense it's both feasible and economically sound.

In the short term (present to 2020) we would stop building pipelines that export Alberta's oil. Since existing capacity to export the oil exists this would not create any problems for a minimum of 8 years. During that time refineries would be built as close to the mining operations as possible so that when existing export capacity is reached any additional oil mined would go straight to the refineries built here. There are several benefits to this. The most obvious is that it will create jobs in the refining industry; mainly in Alberta and Saskatchewan but also possibly in the Northwest Territories, British Columbia and Manitoba. The second obvious benefit is that no new long distance pipelines transporting oil will be built; note, it is likely that short distance pipelines will still be required. The third is the near elimination of transport costs from the mining operations to the refineries. The fourth benefit is that it would slow down oilsand expansion while maintaining economic growth; this will be most likely due to a shortage of labour as some workers move into the refining industry. This would trigger the fifth benefit; Alberta's oil would last longer.

Obviously this will create new products for export; refined oil mostly in the form of gasoline. Since we're not all going to drive to Alberta to fill up our tanks this gasoline will need to be transported. The most efficient is by pipeline; yeah, I know, there are those dreaded pipelines again. Consider though, Alberta's oil is going to be transported one way or another. Transporting it in the form of gasoline via pipelines is the cheapest and most environmentally friendly way of doing it. So get over it, there will be pipelines unless you invent something that will magically transform our society overnight into one that doesn't move our fat arses around with gasoline.

So the question now becomes where do we move Alberta's gasoline to. I can't say for certain as the location of the refineries is not nailed down but there are many options. The BC west coast is one and the US west coast is another. Both provide the shortest route to tankers and the rest of the world. Other options include south to the US where it can connect with any existing gasoline pipelines and the last option is the Great Lakes; though the last is probably the least likely option.

In the medium term (2020 to 2030) oil mined prior to 2020 would still be exported while refining capacity would expand at the same rate as oilsand production. In short this period of time would continue the expansion set out in the short term phase in order to establish an infrastructure to refine oil and transport gasoline.

In the long term (2030 to 2050) we'd begin to eliminate oil exports. This can be done in two ways. The first is by simple attrition. Pipelines now exporting oil will wear out so instead of replacing them with new oil pipelines we simply replace them with new gasoline pipelines. The second is to convert existing pipelines that now transport oil into ones that transport gasoline. The goal by the end of this long term phase is to completely stop exporting oil and instead export gasoline along with the various other refined products.

Now that I've laid out the broad plan I'll address some of the most likely questions.

Why not just transport the oil to the east for refining? If you didn't like the Keystone pipeline to Texas what makes you think you'll like a pipeline that's just as long or longer to the east.

Isn't transporting gasoline just as bad as transporting oil? I can't answer this for certain, but circumstantial evidence says no. While it may happen I've never heard of a tanker transporting gasoline spilling it's contents into the seas. Nor have I ever heard of a pipeline leaking thousands of litres of gasoline into ecologically sensitive land. Most importantly, I've never heard of massive protests against transporting gasoline. So while I don't have a definitive answer, my hunch is that transporting gasoline--likely due it's lower viscosity--is more economical and environmentally friendly.

Won't investing in refineries here mean less investment in other industries here? Nope. Alberta's oil will be refined somewhere so the money to invest in refineries already exists. The only difference is where that money is invested; here or China or Texas. So while we definitely will rob some other nation of that investment it will in no way affect the amount of money that will be invested in other industries.

Isn't it a lot cheaper to build and operate refineries in China making our refineries uncompetitive? Yes, for now. But given current trend lines that advantage is shrinking. A rapidly expanding middle class in China is quickly pushing up labour costs. While the gap may never close over the time frame I've established it will likely narrow enough for the benefits to outweigh the remaining differential. Aside from that, refineries in the US are competitive so there's good reason to believe we can be as well.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Saganash Scores An Early Point

Romeo Saganash has the right attitude regarding low party membership numbers in Quebec.
In an interview with APTN National News Monday, Saganash dismissed concerns raised by high-profile Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair who said candidates from Quebec were at a disadvantage in the leadership race because the NDP lacked a provincial wing there.
Mulcair, seen by many as a top NDP candidate, told reporters Monday that he was holding off declaring his intentions to run because he believed the numbers were against him.

Saganash admitted that the newness of the NDP in Quebec and its lack of a provincial base was a “challenge,” but it wasn’t enough to make him back off his leadership bid.
“It is definitely a challenge and every challenge brings an opportunity,” said Saganash. “We have our work cut out for us. Definitely it is not a handicap in my view, rather an opportunity.”

Any Quebec based candidate that wins the leadership race will likely have broad appeal with the general electorate within the province but they will need to have broad appeal with the general electorate outside of the province for the New Democrats to have a shot at forming the next government. And if they need to rely on Quebec candidates to win the leadership race because they can't win over NDP members in the rest of Canada then they most assuredly are not going to win over the general electorate.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Game On

So we have a race; sort of. Two, count em, two candidates for the leadership of the New Democratic Party have officially thrown their ushankas into the ring. The two candidates are NDP President Brian Topp and NDP MP for the Quebec riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, Romeo Saganash. Of course, neither announced candidate are officially candidates yet. Both must collect the required number of signatures and...Zzzzz. Sorry, I dozed off. If you're interested in the boring technical details of the leadership race, knock yourself out.

Now this early in the race there isn't much to say other than this early in the race there isn't much to say. If you compare the race to a 100 metre dash, all that's taken place so far is two runners have taken to the field and are just beginning to limber up. Of course this hasn't stopped the liberal and conservative media from attempting to craft all sorts of narratives dreamed up by partisan pundits on twitter; none of whom, by the way, are actually dippers.

One of the few things we can do this early in the race is to look at some of the candidate's strengths, weaknesses and questions about them that need to be answered. More will be added as we get to know these two candidates and any others who enter the race.

Romeo Saganash
Strengths: --He's a Cree Indian. Saganash could capitalize on his ancestry in much the same way Obama did.

Weaknesses: --He's a Cree Indian. Unfortunately racism still lingers in Canada. While the overt racists wouldn't likely vote NDP, a campaign of vilification against aboriginals could dissuade some fence sitters.
--He's extremely unknown. Voters outside of Quebec have most likely never even heard his name mentioned. Even those who know of him--like me for instance--probably know very little about him.

Questions: --How strong is his English? If his grasp of the English language is no better than Stephane Dion's is Romeo doesn't have a shot. Fortunately for Saganash, this is one question he can easily clear up. See update below.

Brian Topp
Strengths: --He's well positioned to capitalize on Jack Layton's legacy.
--He knows the organization he helped build. This would give him a big advantage in maintaining party unity.
--Brian is not afraid to tackle the controversial issues head on. We've already seen this in the early days as he's taken a clear stance on the Clarity Act and the addition of more seats in the House of Commons.

Weaknesses: --He's never run for public office.
--By all accounts, Topp appears to be a cold fish. While this hasn't held Harper back, the contrast between the affable Layton and cool Topp will stand out like a sore thumb.

Questions: --Can he win in an election? Brian will have to demonstrate before the leadership convention in March that he can actually get elected by winning the Toronto-Danforth by-election or another seat vacated by an NDP MP. If he's not an MP by then it will hurt his chances.

For more on the NDP leadership race follow: Accidental Deliberations and Buckdog.

Update: Via Greg in the comments is footage of Saganash giving a speech in English (at about the 8 minute mark) at the NDP convention a couple months ago. His English is more than acceptable.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On Random Lists Of Names

I was naively hoping decorum would prevent our national media from beginning the silly speculation about who will replace Jack Layton as leader of the New Democrats until the man was buried but it hasn't happened. So lets look at the first absurd list of random names hastily thrown together.

At the risk of being labelled ageist, Gary Doer, Nycole Turmel, Joe Comartin, Bill Blaikie, Lorne Nystrom and Greg Sellinger are too old to take over the role at 60+ years of age. Look at it this way. It's 4 years until the next election and should the New Democrats prevail you'd want the party's leader to be able to serve at least 2 four year terms. This would put the youngest of the lot at 72 by that time and the oldest at 80. And that is the best case scenario.

Libby Davies, Megan Leslie, Robert Chisholm and Olivia Chow are not even close to being fluent in French. Considering the New Democrats are working from a base that is mostly from a French speaking province this is an impossible obstacle to overcome.

Brian Topp. Sorry, Brian who. If you've never even run for elected office you have no business gunning for the top job on your first attempt.

So this leaves us with Paul Dewar and Thomas Mulcair. In this random list of names these are the only 2 that are at least qualified enough to be considered.

Lots more to come on this subject.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Just Say No

The Reality Of Privatization

With the usual suspects once again caterwauling for the privatization of mail delivery in Canada I thought I'd put together a simple flowchart that illustrates the reality--not textbook economic theory--of what happens when you privatize government services.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Make Our Concern Trolling Media Cry

Our concern trolling media is calling for the New Democrats to replace Nycole Turmel as interim leader of the party. Make them cry by sending the clear message that dippers, not our national media will decide who leads the party.

Turmel's Turmoil Is Bad News For The Liberals

It began with the hysteria over the Sherbrooke Declaration during the recent federal election, moved on to outrage over ambiguous comments regarding their views of Quebec separatism from a couple of new MPs and now revelations of past party memberships has Canada's political class apoplectic with anger. The it of course is the political narrative being crafted that the New Democrats are the New Separatists. It's a silly narrative to be sure, but not unexpected. Creating silly narratives (see: Dion is not a leader, Harper is scary, Ignatieff is not here for you, etc.) is what the political class does best and if they weren't creating this one they'd be creating another. As far as silly narratives go though, I'll take this one any day of the week.

Why? Because seldom does a silly narrative work in your favour and this one does for the New Democrats. It has the effect of losing an entire province of voters for their opponents. And lose the province is certainly what this Quebec/separatist bashing will do for the Conservatives and Liberals.

For the Conservatives this won't be a problem. Harper has demonstrated that Conservatives don't need Quebec to win a majority. They've built a powerbase in the western provinces that offsets the need to win any seats in Quebec. But the same is not true for the Liberals. They need Quebec votes if they hope to form government or even regain official opposition status. By taking part in the crafting of this silly narrative however, they're shutting themselves out of the province. And without Quebec, they have no hope of unseating Harper which means the Canadian voters in the rest of the country that didn't vote for his party will turn to the only party that can.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The NDP Fund Raising Letter I Still Haven't Received

Dear New Democrat Supporter;

Parliament has just reconvened and the 103 New Democrat Members of Parliament you helped to elect are hard at work fighting for the issues that matter to you. Unfortunately, the 166 Conservative Members of Parliament elected by the minority of voters are also working hard. They are working hard to insure rich Canadian corporations become even richer. They are working hard to insure Canada will always have impoverished seniors. They are working hard to insure Canada will remain a laggard in the battle to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Mostly though, Conservative Members of Parliament are working hard to insure their voice is the lone voice in Canadian politics. We've already seen how the Conservatives have treated the Government of Canada as an extension of their party. We've already seen how Conservatives work with conservative think tanks and conservative media to misinform the public, set Canadians against each other and brainwash voters into believing bad policies work for them. We've already seen how Conservatives use the Senate to reward failed candidates and party insiders.

Now the Conservative Party is directly attacking the ability of other parties in Canada to function as an effective opposition. The first assault came in Jim Flaherty's recent budget that will eliminate the per vote subsidy. Other attacks are certain to follow, which is why a donation from every New Democrat supporter is more vital than ever.

The deck is stacked against the New Democratic Party and a donation will help even the odds. It will enable us to counter the attack ads we all know are coming. It will enable us to sidestep the right wing corporate media and reach out directly to voters. It will enable the 103 New Democrat Members of Parliament to fight hard every day for the issues that are most important to you.

Sincerely, Jack Layton

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Weekend At René's

Quebec's separatism, while a fixture of Canadian politics for the past few decades, has always been something of a mystery to me. So after conservatives began using it as boogeyman a couple of years ago to justify cutting the per vote subsidy I decided to explore this phenomenon in greater detail. And what I discovered was quite shocking; despite being paraded around by the media, Quebec separatism had already passed away. It's easy to see this now with the decimation of the Bloc Quebecois, the internal strife within the Parti Quebecois and the stunning CROP poll showing 82% of Quebecers want the PQ to set aside separatism. But even before these most recent events it was relatively easy to note the eulogy had already been delivered.

To begin with, the almost 50% support for Quebec's sovereignty has declined considerably since the 1995 referendum. A year old CROP poll for instance, showed that 58% of Quebecers felt the issue was settled while only 26% felt it was more relevant. An Angus Reid poll from a year earlier showed the divide at 54% to 34%. An even earlier CROP poll had support for Quebec sovereignty at 43%.

Polling aside, what is more damning evidence can be found in many articles on Quebec politics. A 2001 BBC article for instance, spelled out the province's growing disillusionment with separation.
To add to their problems, Quebeckers generally do not approve of the emphasis the PQ is putting on separating from the rest of Canada...
Since coming to power, he [Bernard Landry] has used strong and occasionally controversial language in his efforts to promote Quebec's need for independence to protect its French language and culture.
His efforts to drum up support for separating have not swayed many voters.
This type of language is scattered throughout articles on Quebec politics. But the most decisive evidence of the demise of Quebec separatism is revealed by an Angus Reid analysis to lie in the demographics of the province.
The first of these is a substantial depletion of the number of potential separatist voters. According to Statistics Canada, the population of Quebec will experience little growth through the remainder of this decade (the result of the lowest fertility rate in the developed world.) But the number of Quebecers over 60 will mushroom to about 1.7 million—almost 30 per cent of Quebec’s adult population. Older voters tend to be risk averse, bad news for the separatists.
There’s another million or so non-Francophones who are also decidedly federalist in their orientation. The number of these voters will probably grow during the Charest years, bringing the combination of “Old, English and Ethnic” voters close to 50 per cent of the adult population by the end of the decade.
By then the separatists will need the support of more than 80 per cent of Francophones under 60 to have any chance of winning a referendum.
While this analysis is nearly a decade old, it has proved to be quite prescient. It's been a decade in the making but Quebec separatism isn't simply pining for the fjords.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Brian Masse Scores...

...On his own net. I'm watching CPAC's coverage of the budget debate and NDP MP Brian Masse asked LPC MP Bob Rae to respond to his party's flip flopping on their support of corporate tax cuts. It was idiotic of Mason to bring this up considering the NDP just spent close to an hour asking the CPC to reconsider their position on the budget. If they did exactly what the NDP wanted, would Mason then ask one of their MPs to respond to their party's flip flopping. I think not, so why badger the Liberals for changing their minds. It makes no sense and only undermines what the NDP is trying to accomplish.

Update: Oops, while getting the transcript of Brian's remarks in the HOC yesterday, I noticed I'd pointed the finger at the wrong Brian. It was Brian Masse, not Brian Mason. Anyway, here's what Masse said that bothered me.
I have a question with regard to corporate tax cuts. For a number of years these tax cuts have been put in place and what is interesting is that the Liberal position on this has shifted in the last six months. I have been here since 2002 arguing for better responsibility for corporate tax cut reductions. In fact, Liberal after Liberal would literally light his or her hair on fire in this place and scream at us about the fact that corporate tax cuts actually create jobs. We never saw that result. We have seen a change of position in the Liberal Party. I would sincerely like to know when that change took place and why.

    The Liberals continued to call for corporation tax cuts even when we were borrowing money to do so. The previous Liberal leader actually called for them to be deeper and broader than they are today. Why the change in the Liberal Party position? When did the Liberals actually realize that tax cuts do not actually create jobs? At what point in time and what specific thing changed their position, considering what was driving their ideology prior to that?
Politics is all about changing your opponent's mind so it simply makes no sense to harass someone whose mind you've successfully changed.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Amending The Constitution: A Primer

Since amending the constitution is likely to be a topic of interest over the next few years, I thought I'd put together a list of relevant information on the subject. This post will be updated as required.

Wiki's overview of the constitutional history of Canada.
Canada's constitution has been successfully amended 10 times since 1982. There has been 2 failed attempts to amend the constitution since 1982; the Meech Lake Accord and the Charlottetown Accord.

A May 26th, 2011 Harris Decima polls shows the majority of Canadians are open to amending the constitution.
For instance, 61 per cent said they're prepared to re-open the Constitution to reform or abolish the appointed Senate.
And 58 per cent said they're willing to offer constitutional amendments in a bid to finally secure Quebec's signature on the Constitution.
Fifty-eight per cent also said they're willing to open up the Constitution to change the country's electoral system.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rebuilding A Progressive Coalition

When I first began blogging many years ago Progressives were fairly united in the common cause of creating a progressive Canada that is just and fair for all. There existed a camaraderie amongst us that made this goal attainable but that changed when it was needed the most in the face of a newly elected Conservative minority government. The progressive coalition splintered into warring tribes as Grits began blaming Dippers and Dippers began blaming Grits for the derailment of our shared progressive agenda. Over the years a widening chasm, fueled by petty feuds and cheap political shots, has grown between us leading to the once unthinkable; a Conservative Majority government whose primary goal is the destruction of our progressive nation.

To reverse this slide we need to begin rebuilding the progressive coalition that once existed by setting aside the petty politics that have authored our own misfortune and once again adopt a shared progressive vision. To that end I offer a few suggestions to begin this rebuilding process.

1) Set aside the petty feuds and bitter rivalries that have built walls between us. We can't expect our politicians to set aside their differences and work together while we continue to harbour grudges against each other.
2) A progressive vision for Canada has been supplanted by a conservative one in our national discourse leaving voters with but one option to consider. We need to begin retaking the agenda by once again talking about shared progressive goals for our nation.
3) Lend support to your fellow progressive brethren. The urge to score cheap political points must give way to constructive dialogue between us.

These are but the first few steps that need to be taken if we hope to rebuild a working progressive coalition that can stand up to a Conservative majority.

It's Alive...Again

Welcome back to MyBlahg.