Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Green Energy Task Force= Another "New Relationship"?

Gordon Campbell's Native Economic Development Advisory Board and First Nations Leadership Council were effective means of bringing First Nations Leaders within Liberal-led governance structures--and an effective way of defusing them as a possible source of Opposition. Now the same thing is happening with leading members of the Environmental Movement: In December Tzeporah Berman was handing Gordon Campbell an Award in Copenhagen; in January Campbell is naming Berman to his prestigious new Green Energy Task Force.

And is that such a bad thing? Co-optation is bad if it prevents something better from happening. Unless the NDP and the Greens come up with something better to produce a green energy policy and a green infrastructure, then it I am not going to complain too loudly.
Furthermore, I have already argued in my chapter in the recent B.C. Politics textbook, British Columbia Politics and Government (2009), the incorporation of interest groups and NGOs into institutionalized webs of governance is a well-established trend; premier Campbell is merely hastening that process and steering it to his political advantage. The NDP should endeavour to do likewise.
I have three suggestions for the new Green Energy Task Force:

(1) Turning revenue from carbon tax into supporting green infrastructure projects, instead of simply reducing progressive income taxes;

(2) Increasing spending on support for agriculture and agricultural production, an area where BC has lagged behind all other provinces;

(3) Shifting emphasis from promoting fish farms and private hydro to promoting wind, geothermal and bio mass on public lands and private lands zoned for agriculture--esp. since wind farms and many biomass projects are consistent with agricultural land use.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Canada's next Governor-General should be a a First Nations Leader

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is a hereditary chief. Why shouldn't her representative in Canada be one as well?

I haven't had the time to write a proper OP-Ed , or even a letter to the editor on this subject, but since nobody on CBC's At Issue panel will say it, I will: the next Governor-General should be a First Nations person. Alberta's Willy Littlechild would be a good choice, so would B.C.'s Wendy Grant-John. Numerous Cree and Metis leaders can speak passable French.

It is long overdue.

What Caused America's $1.4 trillion deficit and $12.3 trillion debt?

#1 Google or bing "Cost of Bush Tax Cuts" for 2001 through the end of 2010, and you'll find the figure of $1.9 trillion dollars.

#2 Google or bing "Cost of the Iraq War" and you'll find an expected total direct cost to U.S. taxpayers of $1 trillion dollars and a total cost to the economy of $3 trillion dollars.

#3 Then there was the loss of revenue associated with the financial crisis---which cost close to $5 trillion dollars for various bail-outs to avert collapse and a further $ 1trillion dollars for the economic stimulus package necessitated by the recession.

#4 But don't forget that the real villain is all those liberal "entitlement" programs, like President Obama's health care reforms, whch could, according to the Congressional Budget Office, offer a decrease in the deficit of $132 billion over the first decade, and a decrease of $1 trillion or more in the decade 2020-2029. Blame President Obama for that.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Can the Left Be Trusted to Reinvent Government?

This question occurred to me while I was reading a recent newspaper article concerning the federal government's plan to reduce debt by eliminating public service positions when baby-boom civil servants retire. How should a more 'progressive' government approach the same set of issues?

(1) From sunset to sunrise policy areas. One clue comes from the private sector, where the adage from industrial policy is 'protect workers, not jobs'. There is nothing sacred about a position, even when it is one's own. What is sacred is the idea of a public service career that directs resources and bureaucratic talent to where they are most needed. If we are going to expand single-payer medicine and the funding for it into home care and pharmacare, for example, it should not be necessary to raise taxes in order to do so---if the resources can be found inside government.

(2) Vouchers Where Appropriate (i.e. not schools). I have written elsewhere that the voucher concept works well in areas where there are (1) a small number of simple, discrete policy goals; (2) the relevant clients are individuals rather than institutions or complex policy communities; and (3) the relationship between policy means and ends is clear and direct--labour re-training and post-secondary tuition are the two examples I used.

(3) Putting the 'Public' Back in Public Administration , i.e. through Greater Public Sector Accountability. There are examples where corporate modes of governance have failed miserably, particularly in the health care sector---regional health boards in BC and Ontario consisting of members from the corporate sector approving the allocation of swine flu vaccine to private clinics, fo example, or nine executives in an outfit like Infoway paying themselves $3.9 million last year because of their supposed expertise in coordinating healthcare data; or the CEO at E Health Ontario receiving a bonus of $114,000 after only four months on the job. I have heard through the grapevine that similar sums of money are being earned in Alberta by new CEOs simply for making across the board cuts of a given percentage. The bottom line is short-term budgets, not quality or even the intelligent management of long-term costs.

The reasons for this state of affairs are at least twofold: (1) Witless neo-liberal obeisance to the corporate sector; and (2) gutless fear that handling these issues in -house, using line ministries directly accountable to the Minister, will result in --gulp--direct political responsibility for any mistakes that are made. In the words of the former Deputy minister of Health in BC, Lawrie McFarlane, "It is time that we rebuilt healthcare delivery around a more accountable framework. A good way to begin would be axing corporate boards."