British Columbia is often thought of as a province characterized by towering mountains and magnificent ocean views but throughout our history it has been the rivers that have been critically important to our lives. From the First Nations who lived here for millennia to the gold rushes of the 1800s to recreational salmon fishing today, rivers have been central to British Columbians lives. Thats why its not a coincidence that Rivers Day started in British Columbia in 1980.
In the 20th century, much of the divide in politics and policy was over how best to create jobs, incomes and keep people from starving how to create opportunity as part of the good life. Those on the "left' argued for state intervention and often outright state ownership; those on the "right" pointed to open markets and other elements of capitalism as the superior route to avoiding poorer populations.
Recently, a concerned parent pointed me to a film being shown to his child's sixth grade class, called "The Story of Stuff." The movie, created in 2007, depicts a world in which big corporations, in cahoots with big government, pretty much destroy the entire planet and maliciously poison the environment for their own filthy ends. According to the Story of Stuff website, the film has been viewed 15 million times, and is one of the most-watched environmental-themed online movies of all time.
When pitching new programs, politicians love their 'dedicated' funds: highway trust funds, housing trust funds, environmental protection funds, wildlife-protection funds, and so on. Most recently, under AB 32, California politicians partly sold the program on the basis of all the good that could be done with Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds raised through the state's cap-and-trade program.
Kathleen Wynne, the new Premier of Ontario, recently stated her willingness to consider implementing new methods to raise revenue to help fund expansion of public transit. Furthermore, the 2013 Ontario Budget presented by Minister of Finance Charles Sousa Thursday, specifically indicates that the Province is committing to convert select high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) into high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes as a potential option in this regard. A plan on the conversion is to be brought forward by the end of the year.
Earlier this month the Fraser Institute published a report sharply critical of one of the flagship policies of the Ontario government, namely the Ontario Green Energy Act (GEA). We found that the Act is costing Ontario over $5 billion annually but yields negligible environmental benefits, and that equivalent or greater benefits could have been achieved using conventional pollution control measures at less than one-tenth the cost.
Carbon taxes are once again dominating the discussion over energy policy in Alberta, where Environment Minister Diana McQueen has proposed a sharp hike to Albertas carbon levy. Presently, large emitters in Alberta are required to reduce greenhouse gas emission intensity (that is, emissions per unit of production) by 12 per cent, or face a levy of $15 for every tonne they come up short. The new proposal would hike the emission intensity target to 40 per cent, and raise the levy to $40. Nice round numbers, to be sure, but extremely ambitious ones.