Environment, oil and elections

My response to Fran Hunt-Jinouchi’s letter in the Cowichan Citizen “Green Party has workable energy plan.”

My response to Fran Hunt-Jinouchi’s letter in the Cowichan Citizen “Green Party has workable energy plan.”

A good debate on climate change.

Thank you to those who responded to my opinion in the letters. I especially liked Hiram Beaubier’s tongue and cheek repartee. I am not immune from expressing rhetoric myself and for that reason I hope every voter in this election will carefully check the facts of what politicians say (including myself) and consider carefully the consequences of your vote. The newspaper does not publish my citations but they can be found on my website blog and I would invite readers to check them there.

I also appreciate the debate from the Green candidate, Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi, offered in last Wednesday’s opinions.

Although I wanted the debate to be about climate change successes of the Conservative government I feel I must answer some of the accusations leveled by Ms. Jinnouchi. Canada is experiencing an economic downturn, ironically from low demand/price of Canadian oil and from a weak global market.

Canada, which already gets 80 per cent of electrical needs from renewables, and is a world leader in renewable energy (www.nrcan.gc.ca/sites/www.nrcan.gc.ca/files/www/pdf/publications/emmc/renewable_energy_e.pdf), is not going to replace the lost jobs in the energy and related sectors by building more wind-farms (which require extensive, ongoing subsidization — not that we shouldn’t build more wind farms). Even in the Cowichan Valley there has been considerable job loss due to the slump in oil demand. I would be interested in hearing the Green plan to get world prices for our oil resource, which is currently trading at $7/barrel under global market prices and has in the past traded $40/barrel under global prices. This is a large, lost revenue for Canadian taxpayers and an under-valuement of our resources and is, in essence, a subsidy for American consumers.

As a small business owner, I know that lowering the already-low tax rates for small business is not going to be much help for me. What would help me in my small business is lower personal tax rates. As a small business owner the 140 per cent payroll tax is probably my biggest expense. Only the Conservatives, in this election, are promising to keep personal income tax rates low. In fact, personal income tax are the lowest they have been in decades. The PBO estimates the Conservative personal income tax plan has saved Canadians $30 billion so far (www.macleans.ca/economy/money-economy/federal-tax-cuts-since-2005-net-canadians-30-billion/).

I would agree that global subsidies to oil are a problem. In many countries, such as Venezuela, the gasoline subsidies are so great that it is part of the problem in that faltering socialistic government. However, subsidies to oil companies in Canada are not a problem. You quoted $1.2 billion of subsidy to oil companies. Oil is a large industry in Canada and ironically a large portion of those subsidies are for oil companies to develop renewable energy, R&D for reduced GHG emissions, among other benign reasons (http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/harper-government-has-given-big-oil-and-pipeline-companies-more-than-400-million-to-go-green). All things considered, $1.2 billion is a small subsidy. My sources cite much smaller subsidies (http://mobi.iedm.org/48731-is-the-canadian-oil-industry-subsidized). In Canada we have the opposite of subsidies in that our fuels are highly taxed (currently more that 39 cents a litre for gasoline), large royalties, etc.

I could not find a reasonable source for the claim of an indirect $34 billion subsidy, although I have seen that number recently bandied about by activists. I would be interested in seeing the citation and the methodology in creating that number.

Tanker traffic will indeed increase off our coast and that is why Canada and B.C. have stringent laws and safety requirements including double hulled tankers, tug boat escorts and world class spill response teams (one of which is located in our riding). According to Statistics Canada, we can expect, with our current technology levels, one major spill in Canada every 200 years or so. In 100 years we have not had a tanker spill in B.C. This is an excellent safety record. In fact there are more spills from ferries, grain ships and barges and I have not heard the call to ban any of those.

We could choose to lead our lives based on worst case scenarios as the NDP and Green party would have us do, but none of us would ever leave our houses for fear of being run over by a concrete truck. The fact is we live in a modern society that is very safe (and getting safer) but is not, and never will be, without risk. Steps are being taken to reduce GHGs by all levels of government in Canada. Voters will have to weigh the rate of desired GHG reduction against their own fiscal well being and choose accordingly Oct. 19.

Thank you to Fran for providing a spirited and well-intoned platform of debate.


Martin Barker

Conservative nomination candidate