Even in wealthy parts of the city, I get asked at the doorstep about our policies on housing. Everybody knows there is a housing crisis, usually from personal experience or the experience of someone close to them.
The problem is, of course, that “the market” favours those with money. So, left to market forces, the temporary “boom” in extractive industries has resulted in more high-cost houses being built, but has forced prices up for those on lower income. And it has not resulted in a sufficient number of affordable homes being built.
That is why we need a major building programme. We need to fund Sask Housing and non-profit housing associations adequately to significantly expand their housing stock. We need to provide support to housing cooperatives. We need to provide incentives – both tax breaks and legal requirements – for homebuilders to increase the number of affordable homes they are building for owner occupation.
Once we get enough houses built, the cost of renting will have to fall. It’s a simple market mechanism. But until then we need to put some check on the ability of landlords to suddenly increase rents. And even after we have enough homes out there, we may still need rent controls – though that should never be our primary method of controlling prices.
The need for an affordable housing boom carries with it a couple of implications.
Firstly we need more people trained in building skills, and trained to do it well. That means more places at SIAST and local colleges, and more training on the job.
Secondly, the energy aspects of our housing design need to be dramatically improved. Typical insulation values in Saskatchewan are now less than those mandated by law in Britain, where winter temperatures rarely drop much lower than zero. As fuel prices rise (and it is inevitable that they will), we can expect more people to suffer from fuel poverty if we do not get our housing design right.
I’m not keen on the fact that we need to spend money. But there is no way around that reality. People need homes, and it will take money to get them built. Let’s get our priorities straight as a province and put their fundamental need for housing ahead of any desire we might have for tax cuts. Let’s be one Saskatchewan, not a province split between the comfortably off and the poor.
Just got the news – at their AGM today, the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan voted, by a more than 2/3 majority, to oppose and prohibit the storage and transportation of nuclear waste.
A big MARCI and congratulations to the Metis Nation, and especially to those courageous leaders who have been working for this. Kudos especially to Bryan Lee of Fish Lake, who presented the motion.
The Green Party of Saskatchewan has emerged as the only true alternative to old-style politics in Saskatchewan.
For those who are unfamiliar with the values of the Green movement, we are committed to the following principles:
- Ecological Wisdom
- Social & Economic Justice
- Participatory Democracy
- Personal, Social, and Global Responsibility
- Community Based Economics
- Cooperation and Mutual Aid
- Respect for Diversity
- Peace and Non-Violence
- Gender Equity
Saskatchewan’s future is Green!
See the connections between the nuclear industry, the U of S and the SaskParty government.
We are repeatedly told by the Sask Party that we are a booming “have province”. And yes, some people have got very rich in the last few years. Others haven’t – the number of people using the food bank is 18% higher now than in 2008, and the cost of housing is creating real problems for young people and those on low income.
But even if there is more money swilling about now than there was a few years ago, we are a province in debt. We have an infrastructure debt – all the highways, bridges, etc which have received inadequate maintenance over the last couple of decades. We have a public services debt – all the schools, universities hospitals and social services offices which need infusions of cash in order to be able to do their job properly. (And, in the case of social services, need a radical shake-up and a thorough investigation of past malpractice.) And we have a debt to future generations – every tonne of carbon dioxide which we put into the atmosphere (and we emit 74 million tonnes per year) is a theft from their ability to sustain themselves.
The sad reality is that we need to spend more money as a province to put these things right. That means that we need to raise more money. So where is it going to come from?
The Sask Party assume that “growth” will supply all the money we need. If the growth doesn’t come, too bad. If it does come, money will be carefully rationed out to essential services while the super-rich and the big corporations take pretty well as much as they want.
The NDP propose only to moderate this trend. They suggest an increase in royalties on potash from 5% to 10%. No increase on uranium, or oil, or gas, or other minerals. Just potash. (Is it a coincidence that their leader, Dwain Lingenfelter, spent most of the last decade working for an oil company?) They would use the money on worthwhile things, but they would not address the deep problems developing in our society.
Greens would raise royalties across the board. And why stop at 10%? – after all, much lower than in most other jurisdictions worldwide. Let’s be clear – the mining corporations do not own the resource. Ownership of the resource is a matter for negotiation between First Nations (who never surrendered land rights below the depth of a plough) and the province. The corporations are just the agents whom we permit to access it for us. That they should take 95% or even 90% of the benefit is absurd. It is even more absurd when they have their head office in Calgary or Chicago.
The provincial government’s first responsibility is not to big business, but to its people. Therefore let’s review _all_ royalty rates and re-set them to values closer to the international norm. Just to illustrate what that might be, I provide below a list compiled by John Warnock (of the U of R) of the effective rate of return from mineral resources to governments:
- Sweden …….. 28%
- Chile ……….. 36%
Argentina ……. 40%
China ………… 41.7%
South Africa …45%
Philippines ….. 45.3%
- Kazakhstan ….. 46.1%
- Tanzania ……. 47.8%
Indonesia …….. 52.2%
Uzbekistan …… 62.9%
SASKATCHEWAN: 10.8% average over last 10 years for potash, 9.8% for uranium
For oil, the situation is similar:
Venezuela ….. 89%
Nigeria …….. 77%
Norway …….. 76%
Angola ……… 73%
Ecuador ……. 61%
Louisiana ….. 57%
U.K. ……….. 52%
Alberta …….. 39%
Given that Saskatchewan controls nearly half of the world’s potash resources and a quarter of its uranium, and given that peak oil has probably already been reached in nearly every other jurisdiction, we are in a strong position to demand more money from the corporations. Time to stop letting them have their way with us and to demand a bit more respect. (And let’s remember – the current royalties regime was established by the Romanow and Calvert NDP governments…)
In addition, Greens would end the direct subsidies for oil drilling, amounting to about a quarter of a billion dollars each year. Oil companies are big enough and ugly enough to look after themselves – they don’t need our help.
Mining and oil extraction are not a sustainable way to run an economy, but the transition to better means of income generation will take several years. So while the extractive industries continue in our province, let’s use them as a source of funding for the things we really need – proper childcare services, a guaranteed minimum income, affordable housing for everyone, a rapid transition to electrical and heating systems based on renewable energy, more comprehensive public transit, smaller class sizes, better-staffed schools, post-secondary education available for everyone regardless of income, and a savings fund for our future needs.
A “have” province which only “has” because it doesn’t meet the needs of its own low-income citizens and steals from its childrens’ future is not a “have” province. It is a province in deep moral debt and deep moral decline.
On Tuesday, I was in debate with Cam Broten, the long-term NDP MLA for Saskatoon Massey Place. I have a lot of respect for Cam, and I found that we agreed on many things. But on the subject of nuclear waste it was a different matter.
We were asked if we would legislate against the establishment of a nuclear waste repository (i.e. a high-tech dump) in Saskatchewan. I was able to answer quite unequivocally: yes we would. And we would also legislate against the transportation of said waste across Saskatchewan.
Cam wasn’t able to be as specific. His party’s policy only permits him to “oppose” a nuclear waste dump.
The problem is, he can oppose all he likes but the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) can still claim the authority to go ahead with the project without consulting the province. The NWMO is a body managed by the producers of nuclear waste but officially accountable only at a federal level. That means that they can bypass provincial one-off rulings, and they can bypass provincial environmental impact assessments. So merely “opposing” the dump gets Cam and the NDP nowhere if they genuinely want to stop it.
I am opposed to my guests cutting their toenails on my couch, but I would not legislate against it. Most guests would respect my preferences. The same cannot be said of the NWMO, which has no intention of listening to the people of Saskatchewan as it makes its site selection. (The negotiations underway with the governing bodies in Pinehouse, English River and Creighton follow repeated approaches by the NWMO, big financial promises, honorarium payments to NWMO-chosen “elders” and provision of one-sided “information”.)
Provincial legislation, however, has prevented the NWMO from looking for dump sites in Manitoba – the province passed legislation to outlaw a nuclear waste repository in 1989.
Incidentally, NDP environment critic Sandra Morin was approached by a civil society group in 2009 with a proposal for legislation against nuclear waste deposition in Saskatchewan. She has not yet sent any response.
I know that some NDP candidates have now said that they would be prepared to legislate. It is now important to ask them: are you prepared to work for this legislation even if your party bosses tell you not to? If the answer is not an unequivocal yes, their support cannot be guaranteed in keeping Saskatchewan free of the cocktail of radioactive toxins produced in southern Ontario’s nuclear reactors.
Green Party opposes all tarsands development in Saskatchewan
The Green Party of Saskatchewan is opposed to all exploration, drilling and extraction of the province’s tar sands.
Tarsands development in Alberta has been demonstrated by independent scientists1 to be adding highly toxic metals and polycyclic aromatic compounds to the downstream and downwind environment. The only plausible explanation so far given for the sudden high incidence of rare cancers in the downstream community of Fort Chipewyan is the impact of these substances. Western Saskatchewan forests and lakes are already suffering from acid rain generated by Alberta’s tarsands industry. Tarsands extraction uses much higher volumes of water, and significantly larger amounts of energy, than conventional oil operations.
In addition to these local effects, the development of tarsands poses a major threat to the global climate. Leading NASA climate scientist Dr Jim Hansen presents the situation in stark terms:
"exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts…. if emissions from coal are phased out over the next few decades and if unconventional fossil fuels are left in the ground, it is conceivable to stabilize climate. Phase out of emissions from coal is itself an enormous challenge. However, if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over." 2
Hansen is referring to climate change turning irreversible, resulting in an end to the natural systems which support human life over much of the globe.
Green Party of Saskatchewan deputy leader Dr Mark Bigland-Pritchard said: "There are much better, safer and more durable ways to prosperity than poisoning our neighbours and imperilling the stability of the global climate. We oppose all tarsands development in Saskatchewan, and stand in solidarity with the movement in the USA to stop the Keystone XL pipeline"
Contact: Mark Bigland-Pritchard 249 4101
1http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2789758/ , http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2941314/
Green Party opposes nuclear "research" funding
The Green Party of Saskatchewan is opposed to all new nuclear development in the province. It regards government funding of Hitachi’s "small reactor" programme and of a "Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation" as a dangerous and irresponsible waste of taxpayers’ money.
Deputy Leader Mark Bigland-Pritchard noted: "In the wake of the still continuing Fukushima Daiichi disaster, it is amazing that anyone is still taking the nuclear option seriously. Instead of listening to the nuclear PR men, we should recognize that it is an industry with no long-term future except for the need to manage its highly-radioactive, highly-toxic and very long-lived wastes. Besides the risks posed to human health and ecosystems, it is also very expensive – 20 cents per kilowatt-hour according to the quote given by AECL in Ontario two years ago. And it is irresponsible to generate nuclear waste when nobody has secure knowledge as to how to store it safely."
In 2009, the Government of Saskatchewan initiated a consultation process, chaired by well-respected former public servant Dan Perrins, on the findings of the Uranium Development Partnership, a nuclear industry panel convened by the government. The results of that consultation process were:
- 86% opposition to nuclear waste disposal and storage, only 12% support
- 70% opposition to expansion of uranium exploration and mining, only 25% support
- 70% opposition to uranium upgrading, only 24% support
- 42% opposition to nuclear research, a further 19% specifying support only for medical isotope research, only 32% general support.
- 88% opposition to the UDP’s overall strategy, only 12% support.
- 93% considered nuclear development a net cost, only 6% a net benefit
- 98% support for more development of "alternative" (i.e. renewable) energy technologies, only 1% opposition
At the time, the Saskatchewan Party government described this overwhelming signal of opposition from the public as an "orange light". Bigland-Pritchard’s response: "No means no. It doesn’t mean maybe and it doesn’t mean yes in a few years time."
In March this year, the government announced $30 million taxpayer funding for a new, largely industry-managed and -directed Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation (CCNI) at the University of Saskatchewan. According to the CCNI Business Framework, the main task of this body is to “foster investment in nuclear research, development and training in the nuclear sector…. The province expects the CCNI to focus on value-added nuclear technologies” – not (as has been widely suggested) the production of medical isotopes. "Value-added" appears to be code for so-called "4th generation" reactors such as fast breeders, and the dangerous, costly and weapons-proliferation-prone reprocessing technology on which they would depend. Despite 60 years of development in seven countries, no commercially-viable fast breeder reactor has ever been developed, and several prototypes have been put out of action by serious accidents.
In August this year, the government announced a memorandum of understanding with Hitachi Canada to work on the development of "small" nuclear reactors – whose mostly likely application would be in expanding the climate-threatening operations in the Alberta and Saskatchewan tarsands.
According to Bigland-Pritchard, "The Saskatchewan Party has clearly decided to ignore public opinion. There was a clear message of opposition to non-medical nuclear research in the 2009 consultation process, and an even clearer message of opposition to the sort of reactor development which is being planned both with Hitachi and under the pretext of U of S research. The Sask Party are using the backdoor route of the U of S to support special interests against the public will."
A Green government would cut off such tied funding, but would restore general funding to enable the U of S to become once again a place where knowledge and understanding are prized above commercial interests.
The Green Party would legislate against nuclear waste dumping and transportation in Saskatchewan, and would pursue energy strategies to shift rapidly away from fossil fuels to safe clean renewable sources such as solar, wind and forestry residue.
Greens still support medical isotope production, but generated in particle accelerators, not power reactors.
Contact: Mark Bigland-Pritchard 249 4101
The Green plan for our electricity future: a backgrounder
The following is a follow-up to Green Party leader Victor Lau’s press release on energy policy on Monday October 31st, and a further explanation of some of the items included in that document.
According to Deputy Leader Dr Mark Bigland-Pritchard, "The Green Party is the only party in this election with a thought-through commitment to an energy future in which our children and grandchildren can thrive." A Green government would rapidly implement measures to massively improve the efficiency of energy use, and to shift from climate-imperilling fossil fuels to clean safe renewable sources.
Many of the pieces of a longterm sustainable energy plan depend first on cleaning up our electricity supply. At present, SaskPower is heavily dependent on dirty coal. In addition to their emissions of mercury and other heavy metals, our coal-fired power stations are also a major source of carbon dioxide, the principal gas driving climate change.
Efficiency: the neglected low-cost way forward
It is well-established fact that it is cheaper to save electricity through greater efficiency than it is to generate it. A Green government would therefore instruct SaskPower to introduce, as the central feature of its forward planning, an efficiency programme similar to those which are proving extremely successful in California, Vermont, Massachusetts and many European countries. As a result of the Californian programme, the state’s electricity consumption per person has remained steady for nearly 40 years while real incomes have nearly doubled.
Cut out the waste: efficiency in offices and homes should reduce power requirements
Last year, SaskPower projected a 12% increase in domestic and commercial consumption over ten years. A concerted demand side management programme – i.e. policies to enable and drive a radical shift to more energy-efficient equipment and methods – could easily turn this increase into a decrease.
Cut out the waste: our industrial base needs to become more energy-efficient, but it also needs to become more diversified
However, SaskPower also projected a 73% increase in heavy industrial electricity consumption over the same period. This is based on the assumption that energy-intensive extractive industries will continue to expand with minimal regulation or control. This level of increase of demand is unsustainable.
Therefore, Green Party MLAs will work for:
- a fair price for industrial electricity – in contrast to the present situation, in which new industry requires new power plants to be built, generating power at 11 or 12 cents/kilowatt-hour, but typically pays only about 7 or 8 cents/kilowatt-hour for it.
- a feebate scheme in each industrial sector – efficient operators will be rewarded at the expense of inefficient ones.
- use of government influence to negotiate a low-interest loan scheme for efficiency improvements.
- strict minimum standards for energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions for all new developments, to be required as part of the environmental assessment process.
- policies designed to diversify the province’s economy away from the present overdependence on extractive industries, towards options with a longterm future – efficient manufacturing, ethical IT and especially greentech. In so doing, many local businesses and many thousands of local jobs would be created throughout the province. The current success and stability of the German, Danish and Swedish economies owes much to the development of renewable energy industries – one of the few sectors showing consistent international growth during the world recession – in those countries.
By these means, a Green Party government would stabilize total power demand at about 20% above present levels by 2020 (about 25000 gigawatt-hours per year, compared to the present 21000), and then gradually reduce it.
20% more from renewables by 2020, as a step towards 100% by 2030
New power stations will, however, be needed – partly to replace the existing ageing stock, partly to accommodate growth in industrial demand before stabilization is achieved, and partly to accelerate the end of our dependence upon dirty coal. Under the Green plan, all new power stations will be driven by renewables.
By 2020, 20% of our electricity will be new clean renewable power, from the wind, from the sun, and from forestry residue, adding to the approximately 25% already coming from hydro and wind. This can be achieved by rolling out 120MW per year of wind power, plus 300 to 350MW overall of new sustainable biomass, smallscale hydro and solar generation. This rate of growth has already been shown to be achievable in several European countries.
As the renewables industries grow, so too will the rate at which they can deploy new plant. The Green Party has therefore set an entirely realistic target of 100% electricity from renewables by 2030. Other areas of energy use (heating, transport) will take a little longer: hence a 2050 target for 100% of all energy from renewables.
The main mechanism for renewables growth: the feed-in tariff
Bigland-Pritchard points out that none of this policy is untested: there are successful precedents for every element of it in other jurisdictions. A case in point is the method by which a Green government would drive the growth of renewables. Feed-in Tariffs are a highly successful policy innovation internationally, which was perfected in German legislation in 2000. Community-based generators – and, in some cases, individual householders – will be given priority access to the electricity grid and paid a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour by SaskPower. The rate should reflect the actual cost of generation, plus a small amount of profit for the generator. With the costs of several technologies projected to fall, it will be necessary to revise that rate annually for new projects. Starting tariffs are likely to be in the range of 10 to 13 cents/kilowatt-hour for full-scale wind turbines, and 30 to 35 cents/kilowatt-hour for solar photovoltaics, but the latter is likely to have dropped below 12 cents/kilowatt-hour by 2020.
Feed-in tariffs have been markedly successful in efficiently driving the growth of the renewables sector in Europe – and, during the last two years, in Ontario.
How does this compare to the other parties?
The NDP says it will source 50% of our electricity from renewables by 2025. This sounds superficially similar to Green policy, but there are key differences: the NDP makes no commitment to demand side management beyond 2017 (why not?), and they have no plan to diversify the economy towards more sustainable, lower-consumption sources of income generation. The result is that, under the NDP plan, there would still be just as much power generated from fossil fuels as is the case at present – renewables would just mop up the unnecessary increases in consumption. The NDP talk greenhouse gas targets, but they present no realistic plan for achieving them.
The Saskatchewan Party, meanwhile, does not even address the vital issue of our addiction to climate-imperilling fuels. They – and their friends in rightwing thinktanks – have attacked the NDP’s modest plan as unrealistic, but in doing so merely demonstrate their own ignorance (well-sited wind power is now no more expensive than coal or gas, and all the new renewables create more jobs than the old fossil and nuclear options). Meanwhile they promote much more expensive means of generating power – nuclear, and coal with carbon capture and storage. With the 1.2 billion dollars committed to the Boundary Dam 3 coal/CCS plant currently under construction, twice the amount of power could be generated by windfarms, and with no ongoing fuel costs to add to the bill. The most recent detailed quote for the cost of nuclear power stations in Canada (made by AECL to Ontario in 2009) would work out at about 20 cents per kilowatt-hour, plus transmission, distribution and administration costs. In the light of this reality, the Sask Party’s claim to stand for fiscal responsibility looks ridiculous.
Mark Bigland-Pritchard says: "Both the Sask Party and the NDP are living in the past. The future can be much brighter than either of them is prepared to contemplate, but only if we have the courage to change course towards sustainability."
As Dr Bigland-Pritchard puts it, "Continuing to drive climate change is stealing from our children. We need to stop stealing from them and start providing for their future. And the only party running in this election with a credible plan for a sustainable energy future is the Green Party. It is a plan which not only does the right thing for future generations but also provides opportunities for both rural and urban communities to build new enterprise and jobs."
Contact: Mark Bigland-Pritchard 306 249 4101