Right in the centre - When reality sets in


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

The federal government is cutting a special carbon tax deal with New Brunswick. Seems that a coke-fired electrical plant in that province will be exempt from almost all the new carbon tax, because it will be closed in a few years. This is the kind of “Pretzel Policy” governments bring in when faced with economic and political reality. I don’t think there is a hope that coal-fired or coke-fired plants will be eliminated by 2030, or whenever.

The cost of new hydro is enormous. New hydro generation has almost bankrupted Manitoba Hydro and Manitoba itself. Manitoba Hydro could have generated gas and coal powered electricity (at Brandon and Selkirk) for a fraction of what the last two northern dams and Bi-Pole III line cost. The NDP refused to face economic reality on this issue, but they did face political reality and they are now down to about 10 MLAs and more jumping ship all the time.

Prime Minister Trudeau will cut special deals everywhere he can to stay in power. He knows, or he should know, that the thousands of voters that went Liberal in the last election just to get past the pot legislation hurdle will return to the CPC, NDP or simply not vote. When the last election was analyzed on a poll-by-poll basis and then lined up with coffee shop talk, it became apparent that a lot of traditional Conservative and NDP switched their vote to Liberal. Some new voters went Liberal as well on this single issue. There were three groups who voted for pot– the hard core pot users, the ones who felt it was time to legalize it and tax it and the ones who just gave up and voted for it so the issue would go away. Only the first group of people are loyal Liberals, that is if they remember to vote.

The pot issue, be it right or wrong, was settled at the ballot box. Whether there will be a long term net benefit to Canada by legalizing pot remains to be seen, but the ballot box issue portion of the debate is in the past. With that in mind, the Liberals have to try and appease the public on other issues. Hence the “Pretzel Policy” on carbon pricing. Faced with voter alienation and backed up by the harsh fact that carbon taxes could actually shut down some power generation, stark reality is setting in. The carbon tax is simply a tax grab that may or may not reduce carbon emissions. 

If governments really wanted to switch our environment over to a greener landscape, there are many better ways to do so.

As I have said many times in the past, handling of garbage and recycling in Canada is pretty much a joke. In order for recycling to work, a major overhaul is needed. Tin and aluminum cans need to all have a 10 cent premium and the premium has to be retrievable, at least to some extent, by the person or persons participating in the recycling stream. Until there is a financial incentive to recycle, at each step in the process, the industry will never be successful. Garbage and recyclables will continue to pollute our land, and worse yet, our oceans, until the many problems in the industry are worked out.

Ultimately, the worst parts of the garbage stream will never be recyclable, except as a fuel source for a clean burn energy production system. A clean burn system, with a proper ash recovery method worked into it, is far better than dumping material in a landfill or the ocean. Let’s face it, calling humans pigs is a disservice to pigs. We want to get rid of waste material and get it out of sight and out of mind as quickly as we can. When we face that, along with the fact that we are basically lazy, we will have moved a long way towards an environmentally friendlier system.

The biggest problem with garbage and recycling in Manitoba is that it is very fragmented. There is no coordination of the process. For recycling to work, it has to be kept out of the garbage stream. It can’t be gathered in the standard garbage crusher trucks. Gathering recycling has to be localized. The people who actually do the recycling have to be actually rewarded for diverting waste to recycling. Be it cardboard, paper, tin, aluminum, whatever, it has to have some sort of incentive. Ever try to get fluorescent light bulbs recycled? Pretty nearly impossible, isn’t it?

There is lots of work to do on carbon taxes, carbon emissions and the political will to change how we do things. A simple carbon tax on fuel isn’t going to cut it. We must not let the politicians off the hook with band-aid, useless policies.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer president of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.