The federal election gives us all an opportunity to ask questions about issues that are important to us all. Here are some vital questions the Avalon Chapter of the Council of Canadians is asking Newfoundland and Labrador candidates. Other voters may wish to ask them too.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has confirmed that heating of the atmosphere, ocean, and land due to human activities is approaching dangerous levels. To halt this warming, we must stop the increase of greenhouse gases — principally CO2 — to reach a point of net-zero emissions. The fate of our planetary environment depends on us reaching that point as soon as possible, with 2050 having been proposed by government leaders. Recent events now indicate that may be too late.
Question: Do you agree that we are in a climate emergency and must aim for net-zero emissions much sooner than 2050? If you are elected, what will you do to reduce carbon emissions?
Maintaining water services as a public right and meeting federal regulations for water quality are critical to healthy communities.
Question: Do you oppose the privatization of water management, including public-private partnerships? How will you champion direct federal funding to Newfoundland and Labrador municipalities for much-needed water and wastewater infrastructure?
The COVID pandemic highlighted the plight of Canadians who do not have or lose drug coverage. Parliament has failed to implement a national pharmacare program after intense lobbying by the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. A national pharmacare program would save the provinces money, as would legislation to lower the cost of patented drugs. The savings could then be spent on needed health and other programs.
Question: If elected, will you work to ensure Canada has a universal, comprehensive, portable, accessible, publicly administered pharmacare program?
The fishery represents a highly renewable resource with enormous potential for sustainable economic and social benefits for Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada and the world. But federal policies neglect this potential in order to support unsustainable ocean industries like offshore oil and gas and corporate freezer-trawler fleets which harm the marine environment and endanger offshore spawning stocks. Meanwhile, we have a 400,000-tonne cod stock being harvested at just two per cent annually when a 20 per cent harvest has been shown to be sustainable, leaving the rest of the fish with plenty of food to grow and reproduce. This is just one example of federal mismanagement of the fishery.
Question: Do you agree that the government should make the fishery a key policy focus, prioritize the inshore over the offshore, and enact strategies that eliminate waste, maximize sustainable harvests and protect the marine environment?
For decades, Canadians have been calling for change in the way we elect our governments. Under our current “first-past-the-post” system, most so-called majorities are achieved with less than 50 per cent of the vote. In contrast, most other democracies have now chosen some version of proportional representation, where the proportion of seats a party holds reflects its proportion of the popular vote. Under such a system, parties tend to work cooperatively for the benefit of the country. It’s time for Canadians to have that option. Citizens’ Assemblies have a successful record of moving this question out of the partisan political sphere and giving a genuine choice to the electorate.
Question: Would you support the formation of a Citizens’ Assembly to produce a fairer, more proportional electoral system to replace the present “first past the post”?
John D. Jacobs, chairman
Avalon Chapter, Council of Canadians
As published in the Telegram Sept. 13th
The last six federal elections have produced two "majority" governments with less than 40% voter support, and four short-term minority governments. Yet, our two major parties continue to claim that our first-past-the-post electoral system is stronger and longer lasting than PR governments. That view is challenged in this Sept. 4th member's letter to the Telegram.
One more argument for proportional representation
The Trudeau government has called an election less than two years into their mandate. Why?
Probably, because they want to get rid of their minority government status at a time when they believe they are popular in the polls.
In spite of the fact that four of the last six federal governments in Canada have been minority governments, our two major parties will likely continue to call snap elections, simply to avoid having to collaborate in any way with other parties. According to Wikipedia the average duration of minority governments at the federal level in Canada has been a mere 479 days. This is both indulgent and disruptive.
Clearly, the time to opt for proportional representation (PR) is overdue. Even in Britain, the birth place of our first-past-the-post system, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have now chosen to use PR in their regional parliaments or assemblies. In doing so they have embraced the concept that the percentage of seats a party holds should match the percentage of votes it receives.
Contrast that with Canada where the two recent “majority” governments (2011 & 2015) were both won with less than 40% of voter support.
Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish citizens are also at ease with the idea that the different parties will work collaboratively in the coalition governments that proportional representation systems so often produce. What’s noteworthy with respect to the duration of these UK coalition governments, is that almost all have lasted a full term.
This raises questions for us. Given the regularity of short-term minority governments, why does government continue to resist the formation of a Citizens’ Assembly to look at the merits of switching to a proportional representation system? Whose interests are being served here?
I don’t believe it is that of ordinary citizens.
To access this information in pamphlet form click here.
Avalon Chapter members have made several submissions to EngageNL and government ministers.
Below is our submission on the Fishery.
Response to PERT Report
Barry Darby and Helen Forsey
Avalon Chapter, Council of Canadians
The small Fishery section of "The Big Reset" is profoundly disappointing. It presents a biased and superficial picture of the sector, implicitly belittling the importance of the fishery to our province's economy and society. Of the 300-plus page PERT report, the wild fishery occupies a scant seven pages, with just two recommendations out of the total of 78 (five out of 179 if you count sub-recommendations.)
The report demonstrates a vast ignorance of and indifference to the fishery. Despite the wealth of information and ideas easily available in the public domain, the Team did not do its homework. The report's 82-page Bibliography contains references from various organizations involved in oil and gas, hydro, and mining, but cites almost no fishery-related sources: there is nothing from the Marine Institute, the Association of Seafood Producers, the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW), the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters (CCPFH), or even the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), which governs our entire fishery. Not surprisingly, then, the authors show almost no understanding of the realities of our fishery or its context – for example, the considerable difference between the economics of a processing plant and the economics (bioeconomics) of ocean harvesting.
The pro-corporate, pro-industrial, "bigger is better" bias that permeates the whole report is clearly predominant in the fishery segment. As a framework, it presents two contrasting "visions" for the future of the fishery – "a highly capitalized industrial approach with higher incomes for fewer participants," versus "a more traditional lower capitalized industry with more plants and more seasonal work supported by EI." This is a false dichotomy – one of those simplistic set-ups that misrepresent complex issues as either/or choices, thereby excluding from the discussion the rich diversity of possible alternatives. The authors are then able to disparage one view (in this case, the "traditional" one), leaving the other as supposedly the only option – one that fits beautifully with the PERT's overall approach.
The report disparages the way the Employment Insurance system operates and its effect on harvesting. The relevance of this criticism at the provincial level is questionable, since EI is a federal system and harvesting policy is a federal responsibility. But in any case, fish harvesting, like tourism and agriculture, is subject to seasonal limitations, not only in NL but across the country. So of course workers will turn to EI; that's what it's there for.
Moreover, where EI impacts NL's fish processing sector (provincial jurisdiction), the short employment periods result directly from DFO's establishment of particular harvesting seasons for each species and the province's refusal to permit multispecies processing by all fish plants. But the report does not reflect the distinctions among jurisdictions or the structural problems that arise from them.
It is unreasonable, to say the least, to imply that we should change our fishery so that EI would not be part of it. It's not as if there aren't sensible and informed proposals out there about what could be done to meet these challenges. Rick Williams's book, "A Future for the Fishery – Crisis and Renewal in Canada's Neglected Fishing Industry" (Nimbus, 2019), addresses the EI question specifically and in detail, together with an in-depth analysis of the labour market issues in the Atlantic Canadian fishery. But Williams' book, like other pertinent sources, is not listed in PERT's Bibliography.
Two of the five recommendations in the report's fishery segment – rebuilding NL's fisheries for future generations and taking the lead in research and management – fall into the motherhood category, and mainly in federal jurisdiction. Two other recommendations are mutually contradictory: one calls for increased fish processing, while the other recommends that no new processing licenses be issued.
The remaining recommendation, for equal custodianship of our marine resources with the federal government, was a rallying cry in the 1990s, but has since been largely abandoned as constitutionally unrealistic. Nonetheless, the point is well taken – the Province must indeed strengthen its voice on fisheries issues, push the federal government to listen, and demand that our experience and advice carry their due weight in DFO's decisions.
Beyond those five, however, the report's recommendations on the fishery are most noticeable by their absence. The authors make no recommendations at all on what appear to be some of their key points. For example, they criticize the current harvester-processor collective bargaining model, calling it "anti-competitive by nature" and claiming it ignores quality and other market considerations and can be disadvantageous to plant workers. They applaud transferable quotas and market-driven supply chains, and refer to fish auctions, yet they do not recommend anything. It would have been helpful if they had proposed more balanced and workable collective bargaining mechanisms (such as the single-desk selling used successfully in some agricultural sectors) instead of, in effect, condemning collective bargaining itself and leaving it to government to replace it with something unknown.
The report refers to better fishery management in Iceland and Norway, but again makes no recommendations. This despite the fact that Gus Etchegary of the Fishery Community Alliance met with Dame Moya and attempted to convey to her and her team the clear and feasible recommendations the group has been making publicly for months if not years. Notably, last October, they wrote to Premier Furey urging that a delegation of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with in-depth fishery expertise visit Norway and Iceland to explore the problems with the North Atlantic fishery, discuss how they do things there, and come back to advise our governments. Surely PERT could have recommended that?
The recommendation to reinstate the threshold requirements for processing licenses is particularly baffling. "The Big Reset" is very big on privatization of government assets and activities. Fish processing is already a private sector domain, yet the report is urging the government to reassert its involvement in this business, right down to defining who can process what species, where a plant can be built, and a host of other requirements laid out in the provincial Fish Processing Licensing Act.
There are also some clear distortions of the facts. In regard to northern cod, the report states that "spawning stock biomass has dramatically declined and current values do not [reach] the minimum needed to support a commercial fishery." However, figures for the past several years show a relatively stable estimated 400,000-tonne biomass, while annual removals barely exceed 2%. In the past we sustainably harvested 20-40% annually, and that is still the case in similar stocks in Iceland and Norway. It is obviously ridiculous to suggest that our current 2% represents overfishing.
Elsewhere, the authors confuse correlation with causality, stating that higher landed prices for snow crab were the result of "collaborative behaviour" between harvesters and processors, when it was simply that the world price went up. In regard to the labour supply, they suggest that efforts to increase employment opportunities by favouring the labour-intensive inshore fleet represents a contradiction with the use of temporary foreign workers in fish plants. But harvesting and processing are two very different labour markets, and there is no contradiction involved.
The report's authors are critical of DFO's recent prohibition of controlling agreements between harvesters and processors. They claim this inhibits vertical integration, and "removes any mechanism for processors to maintain security of supply," without which, they say, the processors have trouble accessing capital. This may be another case of conflating correlation with causality, but if that's a problem in this time of very low interest rates and excess capital, surely it's not up to the government to solve it. And harvesters should not have to submit to outside control in order to access operating capital.
In conclusion, the fishery segment of the report starts from a series of faulty assumptions, proceeds without reviewing a diverse range of sources or checking its facts, imposes its pro-private sector leanings and ignores alternative analyses. Shallow and biased, this report leaves the government, the fishery and the public worse off than before.
To: Minister Davis
From: David Ellis, Port Rexton member of our Avalon Chapter
Dear Minister Davis,
I have just read your comments on the recent IPCC report in the Telegram and am concerned that this province is not taking our Climate Crisis seriously. Apart from the usual platitudes and saying we are going to reach net zero by 2050, there is no urgency in your comments, and it seems to be the same old path of supporting and subsidizing the oil and gas sector to the expense of the planet and all that live on it.
There is no balancing to be done - we need strong leadership and a firm plan to move the province forward in reducing GHC emissions in the very near future. This means phasing out oil and gas production sooner rather than later, an immediate start to a Just Transition for sector workers, and a halt to hanging on the coattails of an industry that has denied, lied and deliberately acted to cause harm to our environment with the sole aim of maximizing their profit for the last 60 years. We can not continue to condone this egregious action any longer.
Besides the urgent adoption of a short term phase out of oil and gas production there is much that con be done to mitigate GHC emissions as indicated by your now outdated "the Way Forward". Your government's actions must match the severity of the crisis which will rapidly impact the whole planet on a far greater scale - communities and countries spontaneously bursting into flames is just the beginning.
It takes leadership to make the difficult decisions that must be taken immediately. The people of this province must be told how dire the situation is and will become, in order to bring them on board - to realistically increasing gas prices, for example. How can we be selling so many new gas-guzzling trucks when the planet is burning? Apart from creating disincentives, we need to offer alternatives like a properly funded mass transit system and further incentives to buy EVs. You have moved some way with this but you need to be bolder.
As well as the few GHC reduction projects under way it is excellent to encourage the public to do what they can. But turning off the lights is not going to get us there! We need to move faster with more urgency and you need to make the difficult decisions to wean us off from an oil and gas industry which we have allowed to become a crutch to our economy for the past twenty years - because it was the easy way.
Be radical. Put the planet first, not the oil and gas executives and shareholders. You can not put a price on this planet. It is the only one we have.
Six of our Avalon Chapter members have made submissions to ENGAGENL on the province's economic recovery plan. We have put in a lot of work because we care passionately about this province and the future directions government may take.
As an environmental and social justice group we believe that governmental decisions over the last two decades have been blinkered. Too much influence has been given to business groups - groups that almost always look for short-term solutions to Newfoundland and Labrador's problems.
The business sector's bias is understandable. Their first priority is to make money today and tomorrow. But it is time for Government to recognize that that bias may not be in the long-term interest of the people of our province.
Both the environment and the world economy are changing at an unprecedented pace. Our worry is that our political leaders will continue to favour out-of-date "solutions" that are no longer in step with the direction the rest of the world is taking. The prioritization of fossil fuel extraction, P3s and privatization are examples of this myopic thinking.
Avalon Chapter members have made the following submissions to EngageNL and government ministers.
Let's start with Yvonne Earle's submission on progressive revenue options and tax cuts.
Response to The Big Reset
As first priority, the Premier and Cabinet must look to increase provincial revenue with minimal cost to those already struggling financially. This must be done on a short timeline so the financial impact on NL’s budget can be evaluated before any cuts in services and programs are considered.
Progressive revenue options are presented in both the PERT report and The People’s Recovery Revenue Options factsheet for changes to personal income tax, wealth tax, corporation tax and various tax credits.
139 Elizabeth Ave St. John’s NL A1B 1S2
Below is a letter posted in the Telegram on June 29th by Council of Canadian members Helen Forsey and Elizabeth Lee.
For all its high-sounding platitudes about the need for "transparency" in government, the Premier’s Economic Recovery Task Force (PERT)'s "The Big Reset" report was, and is, about as un-transparent as you can get.
Worse, the government's follow-up consultation process is so laden with misrepresentation and spin as to border on the fraudulent.
The report itself actively discourages analysis and criticism. The authors defy standard practice by omitting any listing of submissions received or of groups and individuals consulted, so readers have no idea of where they got the input they claim.
Throughout the team's secretive months-long pre-report process, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians noted the utter lack of transparency and public involvement; now the problem is compounded by the report's opacity.
Equally anti-democratic is the report document's design. The recommendations are not numbered; some of them incorporate a range of sub-recommendations, also un-numbered, and there is no index to track down items buried in the 300-plus pages.
All this makes attempts to refer to any of them time-consuming and potentially confusing. Moreover, a lot of the content and recommendations do not hang together. Questions are raised or implied, then not even reflected on, let alone answered.
The government's current so-called public consultation process adds insult to injury. The main mechanism for citizen input is through Engage NL with two online questionnaires.
Deceptively introduced as requiring "approximately 30 minutes to complete," the questionnaires are also structured in ways that will seriously distort the results.
The choices are presented so as to elicit a disproportionate number of "support" responses — also known as "false positives" — and to make it difficult (and exhausting) for respondents to enter true negative ones.
One of the most effective ways the designers achieve this is by rewording the report's recommendations. "Please note," they say, "some recommendations were edited for clarity."
Far from helping with clarity, the "editing" often makes it impossible to know what you are actually supporting or opposing. As a result, it requires hours of work to properly complete the questionnaire, meticulously going back through the entire report to compare it with the questions, which are jumbled up and put in a different order. Naturally it's much easier to simply click "support" or "neither support nor oppose. Afterall, who would oppose recommendations for improved services or environmentally sound fisheries management?
Poor glossaryThe report kindly provides its own glossary, offering definitions of 36 terms that it apparently deems too esoteric for the general citizenry to understand — such as extreme poverty, hydroelectricity, per capita and "royalties.
Unfortunately, it neglects to include PERT's own unique brave new world terminology, in which, for example, "streamline" means deregulate; "clarity" means duplicity; "green" indicates less damaging than it might be; "improve" may mean sell or privatize and "uplift" can mean anything from eliminating volunteer school boards to slashing university and college budgets.
There is no reason to imagine that the government's "virtual town halls" or "stakeholder roundtables" will be any improvement on the questionnaires. Such "consultations" typically involve lengthy official presentations to which members of the unwashed masses are invited to "respond" — briefly and within strictly prescribed limits. The supposed results are then put forward as support for the predetermined agenda.
All in all, the level of hypocrisy of the entire process is breathtaking.
“The Big Reset" is trying to press the reset button on Newfoundland and Labrador's society, pushing us against our will towards austerity, privatization and catastrophe.
The government is attempting to justify these measures with a bogus consultation process, carefully engineered to disempower public opposition by misrepresenting intentions, twisting facts and playing us all for fools.
Fortunately, however, citizens throughout the province aren't buying it.
We refuse to be herded into the corrals so carefully set up for us by Premier Andrew Furey, Dame Moya Greene and their collaborators.
We are making our voices heard loud and clear, in the papers, on radio and television, in conversations, on social media and wherever we gather, virtually or otherwise.
As the People's Recovery makes clear, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have genuine alternatives. And we need to take them.
Helen Forsey and Elizabeth Lee,
Council of Canadians, Avalon Chapter
It's hard not to conclude that the Premier's Economic Recovery Team believes that only the private sector can effectively rescue government from economic collapse. Privatization is to be the way forward.
Our concern is that "The big reset" implicitly reinforces the current Liberal government's enthusiasm for P3s. There are sound economic reasons why we believe that to be a mistake. Some of them we've outlined in our letter to MHAs below.
Dear Member of the House of Assembly;
We extend both our congratulations on your election to the House of Assembly and our admiration that you would take on this challenging role at a time when our province has so many problems to deal with.
The specific focus of this letter is to urge you to take a stand against any further Public Private Partnerships (P3s) for upgrading infrastructure in our province. We cite three reasons:
1. There is increasing awareness that P3s are not in the public interest. For example: In Canada five provincial auditors have said that P3s cost taxpayers substantially more. They have also found that, instead of transferring the risk to the private sector – one of the main justifications for privatization – provincial governments usually end up assuming all the risk. Similar concerns exist in Europe. In 2018, the European Court of Auditors reported widespread shortcomings in European P3s and the British government announced that it would no longer sign on to P3 projects.
2. Various reports show that P3s do not adequately benefit local economies. The initial investment required is often too high for local businesses to participate as anything other than minor players. Meanwhile, the profits leave the province. It can also be extremely difficult to cancel P3 contracts even if there is massive mismanagement.
3. P3s shift the costs of infrastructure projects to future governments. That’s an unfair burden to place on tomorrow’s taxpayers. We believe it is self-serving to assume that the economic prospects of our children and grand-children are going to be rosier than those of this generation.
We would also like to draw your attention to a recent report on P3 projects in this province by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The report judged consulting firm Ernst and Young’s seven to twelve percent assessment of savings using P3s to have been both optimistic and flawed. The CCPA documented many biases in the EY assessment, which is not surprising given that the company had a vested interest in promoting the projects.
In conclusion, we don’t disagree with much of the PERT report's analysis with respect to the extent of our province's economic problems. We recognize that something has to be done. Hard choices have to be made.
However, the emphasis on privatizing public assets and public services goes against growing evidence worldwide that this is not in the economic interests of the public. The PERT report is, to us, reminiscent of the kind of IMF directives that have been imposed on indebted Third World countries over the last 70 years. Consider where that got those countries – loss of sovereign decision making and increased dependency on mega projects, backed and controlled by elite corporations.
We urge you to explore alternatives to the privatization “solutions” implicitly promoted in “The Big Reset”. There has to be a better, more progressive way forward.
Marilyn Reid and John Jacobs
for Avalon Chapter of the Council of Canadians
On February15th our Council chapter had a meeting with Dame Moya Greene. Prior to the meeting we sent the Economic Recovery Team a summary of what we wanted. It comprised three sections:
Climate Change and Biodiversity Challenges - John Jacobs
Humanity is facing a crisis as a result of global climate change and the loss of biological diversity. Addressing climate change requires reducing carbon emissions to the atmosphere so as to achieve “net zero” by 2050. Biodiversity loss requires protection of wildlife habitat, among other measures. All future development planning must take into account potential impacts or benefits in relation to climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation objectives.
The aforementioned plans and policies are based on extensive public consultation and reflect critical input from all interest groups and concerned individuals. Forward planning should not ignore existing policies and practices that are working.
Rethink Rural and Remote Diversification - Yvonne Earle
NL needs to build on its geographic location in and bordering on the north Atlantic rather that fight against it. Small communities need to be able to look to a future. Young people need to see reasons to stay, return or arrive as new comers.
Addressing Revenues and Expenditures – Marilyn Reid
Finally, we believe that the culture in government over the last decade has been one that repeatedly excludes different points of view. An important corrective step would be reform of political donation practices – practices which have very little to do with party loyalty and much to do with buying influence. In our opinion the practice of dismissing senior civil servants whenever government changes hands also needs to be curtailed.
The following was submitted on the 27th of February 2021
The Council of Canadians’ position is that water is a human right and, as such, must be protected from privatization, pollution, and bulk exports. Universal access to safe, clean water and adequate sanitation must be a reality for all.
The province of Newfoundland and Labrador faces serious challenges with respect to freshwater resources. These involve municipal and regional-provincial levels of government and include matters within federal jurisdiction. A Canadian Water Agency has the potential to assist the Province in dealing with these challenges.
· Municipal and community water and wastewater infrastructure
· Regional surface and groundwater degradation from mining activities
· Hydroelectric installations
· Climate variability and change
· Accommodating a new “green” economy
Municipal Water and Wastewater
Larger municipalities, such as St. John’s, face potential shortages in water supply in the coming decades. Development of already designated protected freshwater bodies will be needed to meet demand, and water treatment and distribution systems will need to be expanded. Many smaller municipalities and unincorporated communities have inadequate water treatment or none at all, resulting infrequent and longstanding boil water advisories.
Provincial drinking water policies must have the goal of making safe public water supplies the standard for consumption in all communities, instead of commercial bottled water. A Canadian Water Agency could facilitate the development of alternatives to chlorination for treating drinking water supplies.
Municipal wastewater discharges are regulated under the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations (WWSER) and the Fisheries Act. For Newfoundland and Labrador, this includes 206 wastewater discharge points in 117municipalities, of which 184 are believed to have only partial treatment or none (ECCC, 2020) Enforcement is a problem and there is a lack of adequate funding for sewage treatment facilities and staffing. Consultations are ongoing regarding extensions and temporary authorizations.
It is clear that financial assistance will be required from the federal government if there is to be compliance with the regulations. This should be facilitated though loans from the Canada Infrastructure Bank, without resort to public-private partnerships, which result in higher costs in the long term.
Effects of Mining Activities
There are long-standing concerns locally as well as globally about the impact of mining on surface waters. The Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER) of the Fisheries Act prohibits the deposition of “deleterious substances” into fish-bearing waters. However, a mining company can request that a lake or pond be designated a “tailings pond”, in which case dumping is permitted. Sixty-four such exemptions have been granted across Canada (Schedule 2 of the MMER), including at least four in Newfoundland and Labrador. The case of Sandy Pond exemplifies the conflict between industrial expediency and the need to conserve freshwater ecosystems . A Canadian Water Agency should place a priority on having the Schedule 2 option removed from the MMER and provide guidance through research on mine and mill waste disposal that minimizes effects on natural waters and watersheds in Canada.
The Muskrat Falls component of the Lower Churchill Hydroelectric Project was carried out with little regard for effects on methyl mercury levels in the resulting reservoir and downstream, despite evidence from other large northern hydroelectric projects. That project is virtually complete, though with a considerable cost overrun and remaining reliability questions. A next step envisions further dam construction upstream at Gull Island. We oppose further dam construction on the Churchill River. We recommend that a Canada Water Agency be the first point of review for any large dam project in relation to the protection of water quality, the disturbance of the natural hydrologic regime and the impact on Indigenous peoples living along the water course.
Climate variability and change
Projections of climate change in Newfoundland and Labrador include increases in seasonal temperatures and in the frequency and intensity of seasonal precipitation, with increased flooding resulting in damage to infrastructure and drinking water supplies and drinking water supplies.
A Canadian Water Agency should play a role in the planning and coordination of provincial and municipal responses to climate change impacts on water supplies and water and waste water infrastructure.
Accommodating a new “green” economy
Newfoundland and Labrador, like the rest of Canada, is facing an uncertain future, as we attempt to recover our economy following the effects of the pandemic. Many of us are calling for a green recovery – one that is responsive to the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions by changing our habits and technology, particularly modes of transportation. The downside of such innovation is the increasing demand for certain metals and minerals to support the electrification of our transportation sector – the extraction of which puts further pressure on our natural environment, including our waters. Our habits, technology and regulatory framework will need to adapt.
A Canadian Water Agency should play a central role in educating and assisting Canadians to move ahead with a “green” economic recovery while protecting the environment.
John D. Jacobs, PhD.
Avalon Chapter, Council of Canadians
The following letter was published in the Telegram on January 11th.
We have been following any news or reports concerning the Premier’s Economic Recovery Team (PERT) since it was first announced. The recent resignation of Mary Shortall from the team, comments by Jerry Earle on his meeting with Dame Moya Greene and a recent CBC report by Terry Roberts which included the concerns of Prof. Russell Williams about the process PERT is following have us very concerned.
On Dec. 16, we sent the letter copied below to Premier Andrew Furey and the team. Except for an email acknowledgment from the premier’s office, we have had no response.
Dear Premier Furey,
As Newfoundland and Labrador citizens who care passionately about the economic future of this province and an environmentally sustainable future, we ask you to endorse and forward our concerns to the Economic Recovery Team for consideration:
1. Public consultations should be positioned at the start of the Economic Recovery Team’s mandate and should include the voices of all generations, Indigenous peoples and people of other cultures. We ask you to avoid the growing habit, notably at the federal level, of only holding public consultations after directions and recommendations have been decided.
2. We urge the recovery team to consider experiences from other countries, especially those that have recovered successfully from economic collapse, for example, Iceland's fishery. This is in keeping with the task force mandate to “review best practices from other jurisdictions.” Researching those options could be a civil service responsibility.
3. We ask that the recovery team explore a more diversified approach to our economic recovery than megaprojects and privatization. It is critical to adopt a perspective that empowers local initiatives. This must include the meaningful involvement of municipalities, Indigenous peoples, and all communities across the province, similar to the consultations currently being held by the Health Accord NL Task Force.
We look forward to taking part in these consultations.
On behalf of Avalon Chapter, Council of Canadians
Did you know that among the ten provinces Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest percentage of rural communities without banking services? It's a situation that is getting worse as the big banks shut down more and more rural branches.
That very inconvenient problem could be solved by giving Canada Post banking status. It's not a new idea. There has been a cross country push for postal banking for almost two decades - a push that is, not surprisingly opposed by the banking sector.
We've made a short eight minute YouTube video exploring the reasons why rural Canadians both need and deserve postal banking. It asks why the federal government consistently refuses to address the problem.
We bet you can guess the answer.
You can check out the video here.
(As published in a Letter to the Telegram, Nov. 7th)
In his letter to The Telegram of Oct. 22nd, Tor Naess states correctly that “fossil fuel is in the process of being phased out as a preferred energy source,” and he goes on to give some of the reasons why — the principal one being the challenge of “meeting global climate goals.”
However, he argues, since some 80 per cent of future energy requirements will still have to come from oil and gas through 2035 (itself a controversial estimate), the government should get busy and “encourage more offshore exploration activities through incentives.” Further, “the resources may stay in the ground unless developments are accelerated.”
It is becoming hard to keep track of the players as they chase profits for a resource that is of declining value.
This “acceleration” would be assisted by government through more incentives and by “streamlining” the approval process, including further weakening or removing regulations, which is the last thing our much-stressed marine environment needs.
In other words, Naess is saying the province is at risk of seeing the demand for its fossil fuel resources decline and those resources essentially becoming valueless if we wait too long.
This sounds like a desperate plea on behalf of an industry already in turmoil, and it sends the wrong message in these difficult times.
It is becoming hard to keep track of the players as they chase profits for a resource that is of declining value. We have recently learned that Husky Energy — last month’s main petitioner for government subsidies for the West White Rose extension — is being bought out by Cenovus. Are we to be left with a “white elephant” at Argentia?
China’s state oil company, China National Offshore Oil Corp., is chasing cheap oil in many other countries, and plans to start exploratory drilling in the Flemish Pass, no doubt encouraged by government’s new initiative involving reinvestment of forfeited security deposits. Perhaps there is a message here.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is promoting a sustainable energy pathway that will see carbon emissions reductions aimed at meeting the targets of the 2015 Paris Accord. As part of a path toward economic recovery, the IEA is calling for investment in reducing methane emissions as a way of mitigating some job losses in the sector, as well as efforts to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
The provincial government has two task forces at work now, one on the economy and the other focused on the fossil fuel industry. Both groups will hopefully be working toward a greener and more sustainable future in which the bulk of our known and unknown fossil fuels remain “in the ground.”
John D. Jacobs, chair
Council of Canadians, Avalon chapter
Below is our Letter to the Telegram published on November 4th. It concerns the composition of the Task Force which was formed to determine how to spend the $320 million in federal money allocated to job recovery related to the downturn in the oil industry.
With the word “bubble” now so trendy, this seems a good time to critique the bubbles surrounding leadership in our dominant political parties.
The Goliath of our troubled political bubbles belongs, without doubt, to the Conservative Party. We had a Conservative government ensconced in a bubble with a powerful premier at the centre, obedient minions in the civil service, and an entourage of business interests who cared only about immediate profits. No one outside that bubble was listened to. Result: Muskrat Falls.
Then there were the Ball government’s bubbles. Probably the most memorable is that first incredible, 2016 budget attempt that put a levy tax of 1.2% on Newfoundlanders and Labradorians struggling with incomes less than $25,000, but only .45% on those making $200,000 or more. It was quite an amazing demonstration of how those in bubbles of privilege, even when well meaning, can have little understanding of the economic reality of ordinary people.
Already there’s evidence that similar blinkered, bubble trouble may thrive with the new Furey government. An example is the Task Force recently commissioned to spend the $320 million allocated to the province by the Trudeau government. The federal money came with two loosely worded conditions - that it be used to support laid off oil workers and that it reduce carbon emissions. For those of us who thought that meant training and channeling workers into green economy jobs, dream on.
What we got was a Task Force in which 19 of the 21 appointees came with strong links to the offshore industry. We’ve also got leadership in both the Liberal and Conservative parties itching to make sure that as much of that money as possible goes to helping the oil sector stay in the province.
We shouldn’t be surprised. The oil sector is very, very good at getting money out of governments. According to a 2019 International Monetary Fund report, when you include damages done to the environment and atmosphere that the industry doesn’t pay for, the subsidies to oil in 2017 were a staggering $2.13 trillion or 2.7% of world GDP that year. And that was a typical year.
Like other community groups, we do understand that the government is between a rock and a hard place, and that, at this point in time, we need to slowly transition away from our dependence on oil. But that transition may ultimately be necessary, like it or not. Choosing to minimize exposure to other points of view and other directions is what we don’t need.
Prioritizing one “solution” above everything else is exactly the kind of bubble trouble that gave us our Muskrat Falls mess.
Marilyn Reid, on behalf of the Avalon Chapter of the Council of Canadians
For the last 30 years countries worldwide have been pushed into a globalization model. In the case of Canada we have signed multiple trade agreements.
There is a growing realization worldwide that while “free” trade has been very good for big transnational corporations and the financial institutions that back them, it has not been good for workers. According to a recent United Nations UNCTAD report, inequality and job precarity have grown substantially during that period. The UN has gone so far as to say that there is a cause-effect relationship here.
We agree. We think it’s time to tell that story, particularly as it relates to Canadian workers. On that point, we hope you will consider watching this eight minute video that we have made on the Canadian government’s role and questionable rationale for so enthusiastically signing trade agreements.
September 24, 2020
Dr. Andrew Furey
Province of Newfoundland and Labrador
Dear Premier Furey;
We have followed with interest the initiatives of your first months in office as made public in the media. In your new role as premier of our province with all its challenges and potential, we send our best wishes and our hope for achieving a sustainable, equitable future for our citizens.
We noted with concern the support you have given for further expansion of the offshore oil and gas industry and the program you announced September 24. As big investors worldwide turn away from fossil fuel industries toward investment in alternate energy initiatives we ask that our provincial government be doing the same. Here is an opportunity to shift our reliance on this segment of our economy by investing the unused exploration security deposits in the sustainable energy resources we have in abundance. We need to use our electricity for a green transportation infrastructure and to invest in programs to meet or surpass the climate targets our province has already committed to. Our skilled workers will also need help to transition to these new industries.
As the current COVID-19 crisis has made abundantly clear, our national healthcare system is critical to all Canadians regardless of financial means. In March the federal Parliament voted unanimously on a motion in support of universal, national pharmacare for Canadians and in the Throne Speech the Prime Minister has promised to start discussions with the provinces. We ask for your support and commitment to implement this vital program. Laid off workers have lost their drug coverage and for so many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians the cost of drugs is beyond their means. Many do without or make dangerous choices to stretch their prescriptions which have costly personal and healthcare outcomes. Pharmacare is a critical piece of our socio-economic recovery and as documented (Parliamentary Budget Officer report), will be a health dollars saving in the long run.
The real picture of poverty in our province has been clearly shown in recent months. It raises the question of why workers who work 40 hours a week to keep our systems and society functioning have incomes below the poverty line. We ask that your government swiftly implement a minimum $15/hour wage to support Newfoundland and Labrador workers as a basic step in addressing poverty. When those wages are spent locally it also can be a sustained boost to our economy. As seen previously, the push back from the local business community and corporate sector will be significant but many of those arguments have been used in the past to support slavery and keeping women’s wages lower than men’s. For a more just economy we need a livable minimum wage.
We are looking to you and your government to implement policies that will provide a just recovery for Newfoundland and Labrador’s communities and which immediately take responsibility to meet or surpass climate targets.
Avalon chapter, Council of Canadians
A further clarification of why we oppose federal financial incentives to boost the offshore oil industry in our province
In an interview with Ted Blais of CBC's ON THE GO, our chapter chair, John Jacobs, explains why we and other groups are opposed to proposed federal financial incentives to boost offshore oil and gas exploration in our province. Check it out here.
The following article by Andrew Robinson was published in The Telegram on June 13th. It summarizes the open letter which was sent to PM Trudeau regarding federal funding for oil and Gas.
Federal support for offshore sector would be misguided, critics say
Open letter suggests funds better spent on clean industries, fisheries, tourism
A campaign involving Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore industry and other players looking for federal funding to boost the sector during a difficult time is receiving some pushback from multiple groups with ties to social justice and the environment.
An open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was published Wednesday on the website of the Council of Canadians, asking him not to provide funds to support exploratory drilling in the province’s offshore. It is signed by representatives of 23 groups, including Coalition for a Green New Deal NL, Social Justice Co-operative NL, Grand Riverkeeper Labrador Inc., Sierra Club Canada Foundation and Greenpeace Canada.
The combination of volatile oil pricing and the COVID-19 pandemic has been disastrous for the industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association (Noia) has reported that thousands of jobs have been lost. It’s also been projected that the province could lose $60 billion in gross domestic product in the next 18 years.
Noia issued its own open letter last week, asking the prime minister to consider applying two previously used incentives — the Petroleum Incentive Program (PIP) and Atlantic Investment Tax Credit — to encourage exploration.
This week’s open letter to Trudeau has a decidedly different take on the situation. In it, the groups call on government to look for other ways to help Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy, suggesting it would be better off supporting clean industries, fisheries and tourism instead of subsidizing petroleum exploration.
“This would be more of a transition to something other than oil and gas for our economy,” said John Jacobs, chair of the St. John’s Chapter of the Council of Canadians.
“There are certainly many options on that front. It’s exploratory drilling that really gets to me, because the fact is we have proven reserves. We have companies who were producing oil and shut down for other reasons. It had nothing to do with the COVID-19 crisis — (it’s) because of the world economy.”
The groups argue that funding for the offshore sector would be incompatible with the climate commitments Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador have already made. Neria Aylward, an organizer with Coalition for a Green New Deal NL, noted the province recently committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“In light of that, it makes even less sense, the advocacy they’re doing on behalf of the petroleum industry here in Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said. “The shift from a petroleum economy to a more diverse economy will not happen if our government is kind of playing for both sides. Right now ... petroleum isn’t profitable, we’re seeing that. What we’re asking is not for it to shut down overnight. We’re just asking that public money, which is limited ... that’s it’s not being given to an industry that’s in direct contravention of the government’s stated plans to be at net-zero by 2050.”
According to Jacobs, the province is not on a path to meet that target. He expects this year carbon emissions in the province will be down by four to seven per cent but that’s only because the pandemic slowed the economy.
“This is comparable to the rates of decrease that we need, but we need that kind of decrease — something approaching 10 per cent year after year — for the next decades to limit the climate change,” he said.
The letter suggests public trust in the industry has eroded due to safety concerns and regulatory oversight that tends to favour the interests of the oil and gas sector. It also notes the federal government is currently falling short on its commitment to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, adding it should consult and seek consent from Indigenous people in the province before any further expansion of offshore activity proceeds.
Noia CEO Charlene Johnson was out of the office Friday and unavailable to comment on the letter. In a statement released to The Telegram, Noia said it welcomes constructive debate, but reiterated its point that the industry is facing a “stark reality” that’s also hurting the province’s economy.
“As well, the letter does not acknowledge the lower carbon emissions of our offshore oil compared to the global average, the dedication of the people who work in the industry to ensure stringent safety and environmental regulations are upheld, the commitment of the provincial government to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and the commitment of our industry to help lead the transition to renewable energy mixes and use our considerable expertise to do so.
“Thousands of people are out of work and the future of an industry that provides substantive benefits to Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada is at risk. Noia will continue its advocacy efforts for support from the Government of Canada that allows our offshore to be globally competitive, attract investment and offshore exploration, and get people back to work and help our hurting economy. The consequences of not doing so would be disastrous to our people and province.”
Is Newfoundland and Labrador’s waste-water infrastructure at risk of being "privatized" through a P3 agreement?
Our AGM’s focus this year was on how the obligation of NL communities to upgrade waste-water infrastructure in order to meet new federal guidelines might force some municipalities into public private partnership (P3) agreements. We’ve since had requests for more background information. Here it is. In defense of this rather long blog post, it is a multi-faceted issue..
According to media reports, St. John’s, Mount Pearl and Paradise have to collectively come up with $250 million to upgrade their waste-water infrastructure. At the provincial level, NL municipalities could be looking at an overall cost of $600 million to meet the new federal regulations. The big question for all of us is where the money for these upgrades is going to come from.
Our concern is that NL municipalities may be forced into some sort of public private partnership (P3). This posting explains what P3s are, why we are opposed to them, and how we think a P3 agreement might be imposed on us.
Part A: A brief history of P3 agreements
Part B: Why we oppose P3 agreements for waste-water infrastructure
Part C: The role of the Harper government in promoting P3s
Part D: The role of the new Canada Infrastructure Bank in P3 promotion
Part E: Will our province be Ground Zero for the privatization of waste-water infrastructure?
Part F: Joining the Blue Community Movement
Part A: A brief history of P3 agreements
In a typical P3 agreement a consortium of private sector players finances the project and provides the architectural, constructional and management expertise. A tightly bound contract is drawn up between government and the consortium. Then, over a 20 to 30 year period the private sector group reclaims the money from the public, either through tolls (P3 bridges and highways) or by directly charging governments (water infrastructure).
Public private partnerships have been pushed as a solution to funding infrastructure upgrades since the 1990s. At that time, governing parties in the richer countries saw P3s as a way of shifting budgetary expenses to future years. This camouflage of expenditures allowed governing parties to look more fiscally responsible as elections approached.
In the Global South the story was different. International organizations like the World Bank imposed privatization of one sort or another on governments, by making them a condition of a country’s loan agreement.
In spite of the propaganda spouted by so many financial institutions, water related P3s have not for the most part been a success. Maude Barlow, our honorary chairperson at the Council of Canadians, and a former senior advisor to the UN on water related issues states it succinctly. “Private water and wastewater services employ fewer staff, cut corners on source protection, provide poorer customer service and charge higher rates.”
Unfortunately for poorer countries with heavy debt loads, re-municipalization is not easy, given the continuing enthusiastic support of privatization by the international financial institutions. It’s a different story in richer countries, however.
France, is a particularly interesting example of the recent pushback against P3. The country is the home of the two largest water corporations in the world (Veolia and Suez). Yet, since the year 2000 more than one hundred French municipalities have taken back public control of water.
At a broader level, the European Court of Auditors has detailed widespread shortages and limited benefits in EU public private partnerships. It's not just water infrastructure P3s that are problematic.
Part B: Why we oppose P3 agreements for waste-water infrastructure
The concern of our local CoC chapter is that, just as the rest of the world is seriously questioning and retreating from the privatization of water, Newfoundland and Labrador may be forced into accepting a “P3 solution” for waste-water upgrades. Here are six reasons for our opposition to going the P3 route for waste-water infrastructure.
1. P3s constrain our human right to public water and sanitation.
In 2010 the United Nations recognized the human right to water and sanitation as an essential part of the right to life. The Human Rights Council further clarified that governments have the primary responsibility to deliver these new rights. P3s obstruct and limit this responsibility.
2. P3s lead to the loss of public control.
Given that P3s effectively grant monopolistic power to private sector consortiums, we should take note of what has happened elsewhere in the world. As Nicholas Shaxson, author of The Finance Curse, explains in his critique of P3s in Great Britain:
“The top down state sets long term performance targets, which can never cover all the possible eventualities. The highly complex contracts are impossible to monitor effectively and influence in a changing world. The players constantly try to shirk and wriggle out of commitments and whenever there is a clash, the government which has outsourced its expertise to private actors gets dragged into bargaining games it can’t win. Government has lost its ability to understand what is going on.”
3. P3s impose additional costs and burdens on taxpayers and the local economy.
US research indicates that private providers of waste-water infrastructure charge on average 63% more than governments for service delivery.
Unfortunately, there are no Canadian statistics yet available on P3 waste-water projects. However, cost analyses have been done on other P3 projects (health care, transportation, etc.). As a result, six auditor generals, (Ontario, BC, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan as well as the federal auditor general) have made extensive criticisms of the additional costs of the P3 approach.
Keep in mind also that the “partnership” between government and the private sector is rarely a partnership with local businesses. That’s because local businesses generally do not have the resources to meet the financial requirements of a P3. Instead, the partnership is invariably with powerful corporations with no emotional ties to local communities. That means that almost all profits will leave the province. Furthermore, in order to increase profits, P3 management often cut back on workers and benefits. That can have an effect on quality control.
4. Risks remain with the public sector.
Canadian auditor generals also concluded that instead of transferring the risk to the private sector – one of the main justifications for privatization – provincial governments usually end up assuming all the risk in P3 arrangements. In other words, it’s public risks but private profits.
5. P3s could lead to permanent privatization.
Did you know that there is a ratchet clause in the CETA trade agreement between Canada and the European Union that states that once a service has been privatized it cannot be re-municipalized as long as CETA exists? Water delivery is exempted. Waste-water is not. Currently, the perception is that government has the option of taking back control at the end of the project term. Under CETA, maybe not. It’s impossible to predict how any challenge to re-municipalization might play out in an ISDS court.
6. P3s unfairly disadvantage future generations.
Under a P3 arrangement, the initial financing of projects is done by the private sector. In the past this has allowed governments of the day seeking re-election to look more fiscally responsible as project costs are pushed into the future. The neoliberal rationale for this decision has been that as the economy continues to grow it will be easier for future generations to pay the cost. Except that we now know that talk about future growth may be just a fantasy, particularly in our province. We would argue that this transfer of extra cost obligations to a future generation is no longer (if it ever was) an honourable option.
Part C: The role of the Harper government in promoting P3s
Way back in 2012 the Conservative government under Steven Harper introduced new regulations for waste-water infrastructure. These regulations, which were to come into force in the years leading up to 2020, required secondary processing standards for sewage treatment. Around 40% of Canadian municipalities were affected by this legislation at estimated costs between $18 billion and $24 billion. Here in our province, 90% of municipalities are theoretically required to upgrade at a cost of around $600 million. We say theoretically, because small communities will probably be exempt, simply because the effluents they dump into the ocean are below the threshold amount designated for upgrades.
While we acknowledge the need and importance of upgrading waste-water infrastructure in our province we are suspicious of the real motives of the Harper government. After all, this was a government that deliberately gutted regulations related to Canada’s lakes and rivers, effectively leaving 99% of them unprotected.
Consider the following two points:
Part D: The role of the new Canada Infrastructure Bank in P3 promotion
The present federal government has withdrawn the insistence that public infrastructure projects over $100 million go the P3 route in order to access any federal grants. That’s good. What the Liberals have not done, however, is provide adequate funding through grants or loans so that municipalities can make the required upgrades to waste-water infrastructure. That doesn’t jibe with the Liberal campaign promise back in 2015 to spend money on building and strengthening Canadian infrastructure.
Many voters envisioned that 2015 campaign promise as some sort of FDR New Deal where government would incur debt and then spend it throughout the country by subsidizing infrastructure projects, either through direct grants to lower levels of government or through loans to local businesses and municipalities. But that’s not what we got – not at all!
During their first term of office the Liberal government formed the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB). This is a crown corporation completely controlled by the private sector. There appear to be no government representative on its board of directors and civil society groups have very little access to its deliberations and policies.
The CIB’s declared mission is to build Canadian infrastructure through public private partnerships. But is that the way it’s really going to play out? We can’t help wondering how many CIB promoted P3s are going to end up capturing and controlling already existing public infrastructure - infrastructure like our waste-water systems. Furthermore, given the corporate control of the CIB’s board and administration it’s hard not to conclude that CIB sponsored P3 contractual agreements could be significantly biased in favor of the private sector consortia and the big corporations they represent.
The CIB’s goal is to leverage private sector P3 investments of up to $140 billion over the next ten years. To that end the federal government has committed $35 billion to be spent over that time period. A small amount may go to municipalities. For example, Mapleton, Ontario was recently loaned $20 million to be put towards waste-water infrastructure upgrades. But here’s the interesting part. The caveat was that the $20 million was to be used to “attract private capital expertise” through a P3 agreement.
If the CIB’s money is not being spent on directly financing infrastructure projects, where is the bulk of it going? It turns out that a large part of the $35 billion federal investment in the CIB is to be used to subsidize the borrowing costs for corporations bidding on P3s. That’s to be done by loaning consortium partners money at a lower rate than they could get on their own in the money markets. As a co-investor, the CIB can also mitigate some of the unexpected risks a consortium might face by injecting capital at key points.
All of this makes P3 projects, even smaller ones like Mapleton (population 11,000), appear a lot less risky for the private sector. But still, the private sector would really prefer larger projects - which is why there is increasing reference to the concept of “bundling” on P3 promoting Internet sites.
In the past, the term was used to refer to the bundling of different partners within a particular consortium. The new talk however, is of persuading communities to bundle together. A practical example would be if Lewisporte, Twillingate, Gander and Grand Falls bundled together as partners in order to encourage a P3 investor to come in at a lower cost option.
Worse case scenario: The majority of municipalities needing upgrades across the province agree to bundling in the interests of saving money.
Part E: Will our province be Ground Zero for waste-water infrastructure privatization?
There is, of course, the possibility that our fears about the privatization of waste-water infrastructure are unfounded. P3s for waste-water management have not to our knowledge been formally proposed. That doesn’t mean, however, that they won’t eventually be slid onto the table.
Certainly, the federal government is pushing municipalities to do something. As reported in a CBC article, in some cases town managers in NL municipalities that don’t have an infrastructure upgrade plan in place have been threatened with $500,000 fines and two years in prison. The federal government is obviously well aware that our towns are several hundred million dollars short of having the money to make the required upgrades. Why then this bullying unless it is to push communities into a corner where they believe P3s are the only way out?
That raises questions about how much support municipalities that want to resist a P3 “solution” are going to receive from the provincial government. There are reasons for pessimism.
First, it is very possible that the present Liberal government is, itself, in favour of a P3 “solution” for our waste-water infrastructure crisis. Since taking office in 2015, the Liberals have gone the P3 route for the proposed mental health hospital, the new prison and two nursing homes. By contrast, there were no P3s in Newfoundland and Labrador prior to 2015. The Liberals may also argue that they simply can’t find the money given the current fiscal problems the province faces.
This fiscal dilemma is further complicated by a federal government that appears to be ideologically slanted towards some sort of privatization of public infrastructure. Does that mean they won’t consider other strategies like actually loaning federal money to our municipalities or pushing into the future the 2020 deadline? Who knows?
The one bright point is that we have a minority government with potential opposition to the P3 route from the other parties. But will they come out against P3s and will they look for other solutions?
Water related infrastructure is very possibly the next frontier in the private sector’s quest to gain greater control of Canada’s lucrative public infrastructure delivery. If that is so, our province, thanks to its dismal fiscal situation and the many communities needing upgrades, may well be Ground Zero in that power shift.
Part F: Joining the Blue Communities Movement
Did you know that, in the developed world, Paris, Berlin, Bern, Brussels, Los Angeles and many other cities have become Blue Communities?
The Blue Community movement was initiated back in 2009 by the Council of Canadians in partnership with CUPE and the Blue Planet Project. Blue Community members commit to three things.
We would like Newfoundland and Labrador municipalities to consider joining the 27 other Canadian communities right across the country in becoming a Blue Community. But let's be practical. First, we have to acknowledge that there may be forces in the business community and in government that are going to push privatization at us through a P3 agreement.
If and when that push come we have to be ready to say NO to any P3 agreement on our water infrastructure delivery.
Come join us for our Annual General Meeting on Saturday (November 30th) at 2 p.m. in Sobeys Community Room on Merrymeeting Road. The focus of this year's AGM will be the increasing pressure to privatize public services through public private partnerships (P3s). We'll be talking specifically about how this could play out with respect to required upgrades for our province's waste-water infrastructure.
Here's our agenda:
Welcome John Jacobs, Chair
Minutes from 2018 Annual General Meeting
Annual Report of Chapter Activities 2019
Treasurer’s Report Marilyn Reid
Update from the Atlantic Regional Office Angela Giles
Topic for Discussion
Upgrading NL's waste-water infrastructure: The risk of a P3 "solution".
Maude Barlow will be here in St. John's on Monday, September 23 (6:30 p.m. at the Lantern, 45 Barnes Road) . She will be talking about her new book WHOSE WATER IS IT ANYWAY and promoting the concept of Blue Communities. We hope you will consider attending.
NL municipalities are currently facing a crisis as they scramble to find the funding required to upgrade our waste-water infrastructure. There is a very good chance that many will be pushed into a public-private partnership (P3). Maude will be able to give an international perspective on why that is a bad idea.
If you can't make the meeting but would like background information on why our local chapter is so opposed to P3s, check out our opinion piece in The Independent.
On Friday, May 10th, our chapter joined the 200-300 people who marched to the Confederation Building to protest government inaction on climate change. The demonstration was organized by local high school students in support of the growing global movement, Fridays for Future. As you can see from the picture that John took, it was a spirited demonstration.
It was great to see such commitment on the part of our young people. We believe they are absolutely right in their insistence that the time to act is now. And we are glad to see that at least some world leaders are beginning to listen.
There is now a “moral, ethical and economic imperative” to take
more action to mitigate the existential threat posed by climate change."
So said by top executives from across the United Nations system on Thursday of last week.. It was a follow-up to the huge United Nations report just published detailing the extent of the man-made environmental crisis we are now facing.
We couldn't help but note that the four key measures UN Secretary-General António Guterres said governments should prioritize focused on reducing fossil fuel They were
1. Halting the subsidies to fossil fuel industries
2, Taxing pollution or carbon emissions more and people's salaries less.
3. Stopping the construction of new coal plants
4. Shifting the focus to a green economy, not a grey economy
Unfortunately, it's a message that apparently our two major parties don't want to hear. While the NDP and NL Alliance spoke at the demonstration both the Liberal and Conservative Parties were noticeable by their absence. That was disappointing.
When: Thursday, April 18th at 7:30 p.m.
Where: MUN Arts and Administration Building A1043
Parking will be available in Lot 15B
Nature NL and the Council of Canadians will be screening Burned: Are Trees the New Coal? – a film about using our forests to feed generators to produce electricity. European Union policy makers decided biomass was “green” i.e. renewable energy. This has led to wholesale destruction of forests in the southeastern US and elsewhere to feed huge thermoelectric plants in the UK and Europe. The practice is now spreading to eastern Canada.
More information is available at http://naturenl.ca/event/environment-film-night-burned-are-trees-the-new-coal/