Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Forums on Urban/Rural Issues and on Energy (Yet More Notes from the LPCO AGM)

There were separate forums on urban/rural issues and energy. Both were well attended. I'm starting to get a bit tired of typing, so I'm going to just list a bunch of ideas and statements from my notes. Some of these were made by the panelists but many were comments from delegates.

Bridging Rural and Urban Canada
We lost a lot of rural votes in the last election. We need to understand why.

Urban and rural are not two solitudes. We need to understand the linkages. For example, 30,000 jobs in Toronto GTA depend on mining (marketing, tax consulting, finance, technology, etc).

Iogen - cellulose waste from corn stalks, is better than ethanol.

Technology is making new opportunities. For example, call center technology means that people can work at home for high wages, anywhere that has high speed internet. Ditto with remote health diagnoses.

If we allowed communities to be sponsors of immigrants, a town could request to sponsor doctors and nurses, for example.

We've done a lot to reduce poverty in children and seniors, but not enough for poor working-age adults. Someone working minimum wage full time makes $2,000/year less than the poorest senior.

We have to remember that many non-urban areas aren't involved in resource extraction or farming. Places like Barrie and Collingwood are small cities.

We need to do more for public transit within and between small towns.

We need government action on Manitoba flooding and rural sewage.

We should consider different policies for rural areas, such as bonfires, driving junker cars on private property, etc. "The regulatory load infringes on rights and on way of life."

Farmers are not getting a fair share in the marketplace. "Farmers are buying at retail and selling at wholesale."

We need transition programs for farmers to move to organic farming in response to consumer demand for organic food.

We need structural change in the party to demonstrate our commitment to exurban areas. For example, a rural commission. For example, staff reps for rural Canada. We send our press releases to the Globe & Mail but people in small towns don't read it.

Health in rural areas is a big issue.

We need short sharp direct statements on what we're going to do.

We need an emotional response, not just a policy response.

We should all work to put the rural discussion in every leadership debate.

This is a new world of high energy prices and they're here to stay.

Canada sells the US a lot of energy.

"We seem to have lost our energy advantage in Canada."

How to help Canadians cope with higher energy costs - should we have a rebate? We could eliminate the excise tax on gas for prices over 75 cents a liter, or eliminate the GST on the excise tax (both promises of the Conservatives before the election).

Studies have shown that gas has to get to $1.80/liter before drivers change their behavior.

A big issue is how to expand the tar sands without increasing C02 emissions.

Another issue is Chinese state-owned enterprises buying Canadian energy resources.

Argument about whether clean coal is an oxymoron.

Instead of shipping natural gas to the US, we should use it in value-added petrochemical production in Canada.

Our current policies are based on dirt cheap oil from Saudi Arabia: it was cheaper to import oil by tanker than to produce our own. Our old policy was "import to the east, export from the west." We should make sure we serve ourselves before other countries.

In Ontario, two-thirds of our hydroelectric capacity is not used.

Our accounting concepts work against limiting demand. For example, nuclear power costs don't reflect the long-term and off-balance sheet costs.

Another issue is shipping energy to the US and the free trade agreement.

Our environment and energy are integrated with the US. All of our exports of energy are to the US. Our biggest increase in C02 emissions is from tar sand extraction. We should charge the US for the pollution costs, just like the tire tax.

University engineering programs are too traditional. The government should encourage students to learn about non-traditional energy sources like solar and wind.


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