George Smitherman dismisses federal Liberals on claims of Tory infrastructure skew

A little birdie told me that George Smitherman, Ontario’s infrastructure minister, just dismissed federal Liberal claims that infrastructure dollars are disproportionately going to Tory ridings in Ontario. He told reporters, “you can slice and dice the numbers any way you want” and he went on to emphasize that the programs are balanced.

UDPATE: Here’s the video from Citytv.

Citytv:

“The [federal Liberals] draw conclusions based on the analysis that they’ve done,” deputy premier George Smitherman countered Thursday outside Queen’s Park.

But, he continued, they only looked at the Recreational Infrastructure Canada (Rinc) program. While that would indicate that Conservative ridings received more cash than Liberal holdings, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

The Rinc program was open to not-for-profits and municipalities, he explained.

“So the fact that there are 450 municipalities, many of them small, meant that there were more requests in the mix for smaller communities.

“I think that’s why you see it’s a little more distributed towards rural Ontario and by coincidence, that happens to be where Conservatives represent the ridings.”

Toronto scored big when other initiatives were considered, Smitherman argued.

“The knowledge infrastructure program, which is for post-secondary education, you’ll see that Toronto actually comes out with a higher degree of investment than its proportion of population…I’m pretty confident that there’s going to be a very equitable regional distribution once we’ve completed the allocation of all those dollars.”

RallyforCanada.ca by the numbers

It is now just before 11am on Wednesday. Since I launched RallyforCanada.ca at 10am on Monday morning, the rallies have attracted a lot of attention.

After 48 hours, here are some stats:

127,149 hits on the website
20,400 people signed up with their email addresses (and province)
358 followers on twitter

I’ve done a lot of media on the rallies:
CBC: Don Newman’s Politics
CTV Alberta
CHCH
CBC: The National
Citytv

National Post
Le Devoir
La Presse
Metro News (Ottawa)
Canadian Press (CP)
Toronto Star
Hill Times

CHQR (2 hits)
CJAD
CFRB
CBC Winnipeg
CBC Montreal

On my Blackberry, I have 1121 unread emails.

I’ve received calls of support from across the country and a small trickle of hate mail.

Perhaps the most bizarre call I got was from a group calling themselves “les jeunes patriotes du Quebec”. They described themselves as a group of separatists that are against the Bloc joining the coalition and selling out to Stephane Dion. They wanted to know if they could rally with us.

“You want to rally? ‘for Canada’?” I asked.
“Uh, yes” they said.

How disgusting, I thought. This was hardly a group coming on side to support strengthening our country with rallies. I tried to tease as much information out of them as I could by sounding as if I was perhaps considering their ludicrous idea. I invited them to send me an email with their info and request so I could expose it here on the blog. They never did. Too bad.

I think that what bothers Canadians most about this crazy week in politics is the proposed coalition government’s association with the Bloc. If the rogue-faction from the separatists want to rally, they can have their own. As for the rest of the separatists, they can rally with the “Progressive Coalition” which is supporting the proposed NDP-Liberal-Bloc coalition government.

The language of energy politics

Consider this news item that aired on Citytv (Toronto) on August 11th. It concerns the Ontario NDP’s energy plan going into the next election.

A couple of things about this video made me want to highlight it here.

First, the obvious laughs including bongos at an NDP rally and Jack Layton’s boastful speaking style (Maclean’s recently highlighted a study that had Canadians comparing Layton to a friendly dog if he were an animal. If Layton were a musical instrument, I think he’d be a weathered trumpet).

Moving away from musical analogies to those of energy and power (which during the piece were interesting and sometimes clever), the second item I wanted to highlight was this awkward phrase which caught my attention:

“[The NDP’s plans aims] to dramatically reduce hydro consumption here in Ontario while promoting renewable energy sources”

The last time I checked hydro electricity meant electricity derived from moving water and this form of energy production is certainly a “renewable energy source”.

Of course, the true meaning is probably closer to the reality that “hydro” has become something of common parlance in Ontario, a slang replacement for “electricity”; when we talk our electricity use, we talk about the “hydro bill”.

On closer inspection however, if we look at Ontario’s electricity mix, we discover that 22.3% of our energy comes from hydro electricity, while the lion’s share (54.1%) comes from “clean”, non-renewable but abundant nuclear energy. In fact, if we don’t include “other” (1.2%), Ontario’s GHG-emitting electricity production (from coal and gas) amounts to 22.4%. So, when we talk about “hydro consumption” as an interchangeable term for “electricity consumption”, the substitution lacks a bit of parity.

If we combine nuclear and hydro, we get 76.4% “clean” and “green” energy mix in Ontario.

How can we increase the proportion of “green” energy to Ontario’s mix? We can increase nuclear output, tap a few more rivers/waterfalls and we can focus on increasing the “other” category which includes building more windmills and solar farms to take that 1.2% to, well, more.

Originally thinking that the NDP had made a gaffe by calling for the reduction of “hydro” in place for “renewable sources”, I checked their website to discover that their “green” energy plan actually rails against nuclear energy in favour for “publicly owned and publicly controlled electricity”. Oh, and renewable? Yes, they eventually talk about the need for that too.

But what is “renewable”? Concerning what we’ll discover to be a positive but ambiguous word, on “renewable” the Ontario government states:

“The Ontario government is committed to the development of new renewable sources of electricity generation. The government has set a goal of five per cent of all generating capacity in the province to come from renewable sources by 2007 and 10 per cent by 2010.”

Is hydro not a “renewable” source of energy?

I certainly can understand the need for overall reduction of consumption (ie. a decrease in “hydro” electricity consumption), but Ontario’s electricity generation mix is quite healthy and the plan to bring more nuclear energy online is an efficient and positive one when it comes to cost and benefit to the environment and the people of Ontario, respectively.

Is nuclear not a “green” form of energy?

Massive amounts of energy are derived from the nanoscopic scale of a nuclear fission reaction. In fact, it’s among the reasons why the discovery was so revolutionary. Worries of meltdown are virtually a thing of the past with CANDU reactors being specifically designed with critical fail-safes. The storage of the waste material produced is on a much smaller scale, yet detractors of nuclear energy will describe the production method as “unclean” whereas promoters might be quick to correct and call it “clean but imperfectly so”. Solar energy is still at a point where the energy vs. the cost of implementing the technology is break-even over a solar-cell lifetime (production and use) of 25 years. Granted, investment is needed to drive down the production cost (via economies of scale). Comparatively, wind power requires large use of materials, over long periods of time to derive comparatively paltry levels of electricity.

Nuclear is efficient has little environmental impact. Why do self-proclaimed environmental activists rally against it?

From an engineering perspective, we want select methods of energy production that maximizes output, minimizes cost and minimizes waste. From a political perspective, politicians balance the minimization of cost with that of waste, depending on the perspectives of the electorate to which they pontificate.

On this point therefore, success is in communication, but unfortunately the language of energy politics can be redundant and even misleading when it comes to “renewable” sources of energy, “green” and “clean” electricity and even when it comes to the word “hydro”. I imagine that as we get closer to October’s provincial election, while the facts of energy production will remain the same, the language of political communication will gather more smog.

David Onley is Ontario’s new Lieutenant-Governor

An inspirational choice:

Ontario’s incoming lieutenant-governor said Tuesday he will play an “activist” role over the next five years aimed at improving the lives of people who, like him, live with physical disabilities.

Stricken with polio when he was three, Onley grew up to become one of Canada’s first on-air personalities with a physical disability when he joined CityTV in Toronto in 1984 as a science and weather reporter.

In his long career with the station, he has also been an education reporter, a science and technology reporter, news anchor and producer.

Outside of his journalistic endeavors, Onley has been high-profile advocate for people with disabilities

Some may look at this appointment and shrug as another media personality is named to another ceremonial role. However, the more I’ve thought about these sorts of appointments, the more that the nominations of people such as Clarkson, Jean, and now Onley make sense.

These roles haven’t any real power and they are largely ceremonial, meaning the most important parts of the job description are to visible, a good speaker and yes, telegenic. Onley is also a highly accomplished Canadian in his own right and Ontario will draw upon his professional talents in his new job.

The other types who may fit well in these sorts of roles are sports personalities, actors, and maybe former politicians. Since most sports stars can barely utter that there’s a “home… run… deal… at… Bob’s… Chev… olds” with any authority, that leaves actors, former politicians, and media personalities. Former politicians bring partisan baggage to a role that is supposed to represent Canada’s apolitical head of state, our queen. Actors can deliver a good speech, however, media personalities can do this and bring a professional credibility to the job that most can appreciate.

As said, these roles are purely ceremonial and the technical responsibility of these people are to represent the Queen in Canada. We are long past being ruled by a monarch, thus these positions simply afford an opportunity to put a good face – a face that can deliver a speech, with credibility and on television – forward to represent Canada.

Prime Minister Harper made the appointment and Dalton’s man Kinsella seems to appreciate the decision. Therefore, this shouldn’t make for any rough political waters.

UPDATE: Some readers have, of course, pointed out the constitutional importance of GGs and LGs! I would respond by saying that advice and recommendations on constitutional matters are never in short supply to these people when such advice is needed for such a situation. Presumably and hopefully, all GGs and LGs make those decisions under much advisement. Further, this also speaks to the appropriateness of journalists to take up the role as they are generally more versed in political matters than most people.

A constitutional scholar on the other hand may not be able to fulfill the de facto responsibilities of these figures because while they may be versed in the legal function of their role, they may not be ideal for lacking the qualities I outline above.

CTV-Globemedia-CHUM

Today the CRTC announced that it has approved the purchase of CHUM by CTV Globemedia, however, it lopped off the five regional Citytv stations in the process. The troubled A-channel however was approved for acquisition by the growing media company. Critics say that the Broadcasting Act, written in 1991 is outdated and that the mutli-media world has changed significantly since that time. Further, it is said that the antiquated nature of the Act limited options for the CRTC in ruling on the acquisition. Here’s the release:

OTTAWA and GATINEAU, June 8 /CNW Telbec/ – The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today approved the transfer of effective control of CHUM Ltd. (CHUM) to CTVglobemedia Inc. (CTVgm). The CRTC did not approve the transfer of five Citytv stations in Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver to CTVgm, given that such transfer would be inconsistent with the Commission’s common ownership policy. That policy stipulates that a licensee may not operate more than one conventional television station in one language in a given market.
“The purpose of this policy is to maintain diversity of voices within the Canadian broadcasting system,” said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC. “Some exceptions to the policy were granted in the past for failing stations in secondary markets. CTVgm asked for the exception using arguments based upon competitive equality and the impact of new media. However, the Commission was not convinced by CTVgm’s arguments.”
Approval of this transaction is conditional on the trustee responsible for the Citytv stations submitting to the Commission, within 30 days, an acceptable plan for the sale of the Citytv stations.
The Commission found, however, that the A-Channel group of television stations did fall into the established exception to the common ownership policy and approved their acquisition by CTVgm. As a consequence of this decision, CTVgm will be able to acquire seven television stations, 34 radio stations and, in whole or in part, 20 specialty television services. Today’s decision follows a public process that included a public hearing held by the Commission, which began on April 30th.

So, what does this mean for you? This will allow the company to change the way that it buys advertising meaning that purchased ads will appear across a wider variety of television stations. So, if you thought Canadian ads were repetitive enough get ready to watch the same Ford Fusion ad on a larger proportion of your TV dial. However, with a larger capability for advertising, the flagship network CTV will be able to purchase bigger and better shows (so the theory goes).

UPDATE: Rogers has picked up the Citytv stations.