Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Keystone jobs

I keep hearing people saying Obama still might approve Keystone. And who knows. But he's sure not sounding like he's going to do it at moments like this:



If [Congressional Republicans have] got a better plan to create jobs rebuilding our infrastructure or to help workers earn the high-tech skills they need, then they should offer up these ideas. But I’ve got to tell you, just gutting our environmental protection, that’s not a jobs plan. Gutting investments in education, that’s not a jobs plan. You know, they keep on talking about an oil pipeline coming down from Canada that’s estimated to create about 50 permanent jobs. That’s not a jobs plan.
That was a speech he gave yesterday. Obama gets the 50 number from a Cornell study that says this on job creation:
In this context, it is also important to consider that almost all of the jobs (direct, indirect
and induced) associated with Keystone XL will, of course, also be temporary. The operating
costs for KXL are very minimal, and based on the figures provided by TransCanada for the
Canadian section of the pipeline, the new permanent US pipeline jobs in the US number
as few as 50. The other operating expenditures (for materials, supplies, services, electric
power, property taxes, etc.) would comprise the bulk of operating expenses and would also
have some job impacts. So considering a broad range of spin-offs, operating expenditures
would have job impacts in the order of around 1,000 per year.

It is unfortunate that the numbers generated by TransCanada, the industry, and the
Perryman study have been subject to so little scrutiny, because they clearly inflate the
projections for the numbers of direct, indirect, and long-term induced jobs that KXL might
expect to create. What is being offered by the proponents is advocacy to build support for
KXL, rather than serious research aimed to inform public debate and responsible decision
making. By repeating inflated numbers, the supporters of KXL approval are doing an
injustice to the American public in that expectations are raised for jobs that simply cannot be
met. These numbers—hundreds of thousands of jobs!—then get packaged as if KXL were a
major jobs program capable of registering some kind of significant impact on unemployment
levels and the overall economy. This is plainly untrue.
Current Canadian government advertising that can be seen on U.S. websites is touting 40,000 plus jobs that the pipeline will support during a two year construction period. More on that advertising, said to total about $16 million, here.

(h/t)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Obama on Keystone

In an extended interview published in the New York Times today, Keystone was raised with Obama:
NYT: A couple other quick subjects that are economic-related. Keystone pipeline -- Republicans especially talk about that as a big job creator. You've said that you would approve it only if you could be assured it would not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon in the atmosphere. Is there anything that Canada could do or the oil companies could do to offset that as a way of helping you to reach that decision?
MR. OBAMA: Well, first of all, Michael, Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator. There is no evidence that that’s true. And my hope would be that any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time to confirm that the most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline -- which might take a year or two -- and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 [chuckles] jobs in a economy of 150 million working people.
NYT: Yet there are a number of unions who want you to approve this.
MR. OBAMA: Well, look, they might like to see 2,000 jobs initially. But that is a blip relative to the need.
So what we also know is, is that that oil is going to be piped down to the Gulf to be sold on the world oil markets, so it does not bring down gas prices here in the United States. In fact, it might actually cause some gas prices in the Midwest to go up where currently they can’t ship some of that oil to world markets.
Now, having said that, there is a potential benefit for us integrating further with a reliable ally to the north our energy supplies. But I meant what I said; I'm going to evaluate this based on whether or not this is going to significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere. And there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release.
NYT: And if they did, could that offset the concerns about the pipeline itself?
MR. OBAMA: We haven't seen specific ideas or plans. But all of that will go into the mix in terms of John Kerry’s decision or recommendation on this issue.
Fascinating response from Obama there. First, he's not buying the inflated jobs numbers related to Keystone. Recall Harper's 2012 sit down session with an American think tank where he claimed that Keystone would be responsible for about 30,000 jobs. Obama is where the U.S. State Department has been, that the job benefits are on a much lower scale.

Also note those remarks that show he's sticking to the principle that carbon release is a key decision making component for him. That sets approval at a very high bar. He's putting the environmental consideration at the fore.

Then the bit about Canada doing more to mitigate carbon release. The Harper government will likely see this as an opening but it's also not very welcoming language to a government that has tried to delay and skate on carbon emissions. It sounds like a stick that Obama is going to deploy.

It is promising though for those who care about the environment and think that a stick is just what the Harper government needs.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Tory expense fun, it's not just for the Senate

Ahoy Tory riding associations!

Canadian Press follows the dollar trail to show us how political donation limits are playing out in Canada: "Eye-popping Tory riding war chests raise eyebrows." This is something we have known for a bit but it's nice to see reporting on it today in the wake of the Mike Duffy Senate expense extravaganza. It tells us that you can put in place all the low level limits you like but let's also look at where the money ends up. And at the need for that publicly subsidized money to be accounted for.

The Whitby-Oshawa federal Conservative riding association has $70,000 in "travel and hospitality" expenses? Crikey, that's high! No surprise here in the Conservative response: "...The Canadian Press did not receive any response to repeated requests for explanations from some of the biggest spending Conservative associations, including Flaherty's and Leitch's." The party of Senator Mike Duffy has apparently learned nothing from that ongoing investigative experience.

Who is helping to raise all that dough anyway? Tory Senators?

Carry on with all the great reporting out there!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Random thoughts on the cabinet shuffle

If we must. Alternative blog post title could very well be: Everything old is new again. I agree with the Canadian Press header: "New faces in Harper's cabinet overhaul, but old guard stands economic watch." I also agree, unsurprisingly (!), with Bob Rae's fun take on all the hullabaloo: "With shuffle, the Harper Revolution continues its slow, steady crawl."

First, an under-noted development perhaps. Chris Alexander goes to Citizenship & Immigration. Jason Kenney's old stomping ground. Literally. Just ask the Doctors for Refugee Health Care who have taken the lead on protesting the cuts by this government to health care coverage for refugees. Whether Alexander will remedy this situation is a key question. Will he continue on with the "gold plated benefits" propaganda nonsense or as a GTA denizen amend this government's ways on what is an uncompassionate policy?

Another aspect of this move is the political angle. This ministry is clearly viewed by Conservatives as a key part of their political equation. Putting Alexander, an ambitious pol from the GTA into this ministry as a successor to Kenney is an intriguing political dynamic. Kenney nevertheless tweeted:
Speaking of himself, Kenney goes to HRSDC. It was termed Employment & Social Development today but it is HRSDC, as Kenney's tweets also indicate. Succeeding Diane Finley. No one is calling this a demotion but it does have that tinge to it. I suppose something transformational could be in the works, given Kenney's being Kenney and we shall see.

Working with Kenney, kind of, will be Kellie Leitch who is put in Labour & Status of Women. I find putting a surgeon in the Labour portfolio to be odd and not necessarily congruent with her experience. Raitt is a lawyer so at least she was steeped more in the framework, Leitch not so much. Although when your government's labour relations policy is just to legislate industries back to work under the guise of "the economy," it may not be an issue for Leitch at the end of the day. And also with Leitch, Status of Women continues to be an add on hobby for a Harper minister.

Pierre Poilievre to Democratic Reform? What more could one possibly say here? This is the MP who has been sicced on Elections Canada for years. If this day was meant to be about Harper turning a new page, this move surely undermined that thinking. But really, who would have expected a day free from some patented Harper partisanship.

The big news elsewhere in democratic reform today, by the way, is that Bob Rae has joined Fair Vote Canada's advisory board.
“Canadians need to know that their votes will really count. This means moving beyond our first past the post system”, says Rae, a long-time supporter of adding proportionality to Canada’s electoral system.
The key democratic reform challenge for Canada's future is not the Senate, the priority should be reforming the House of Commons. Liberals also joined that message on democratic reform today.

Lisa Raitt to Transport is interesting given the debate going on in the GTA - or should I say GTHA - over transit funding and dealing with Toronto's overdue needs and the Metrolinx proposals. Subway fever is everywhere and the funds to underwrite Toronto's transit needs are pressing. Raitt has her sexy portfolio now and it could provide opportunity for the Harper gang in Toronto. Emphasis on could. Whether they will be willing to work with Premier Wynne or keep showing up and wearing t-shirts for Team Hudak is a question.

Aglukkaq to Environment on its surface might seem like a less dug in approach in the offing. Here is one take that seems fair: But it's the oil and gas regulations that will be the big test for this government, as everyone knows.

Elsewhere, countries have ministers designated for climate change. It's time for this in Canada too.

Probably much more that could be said but that's it from this corner of the internet peanut gallery.

P.S. Oh, almost forgot the obligatory note for long time readers...Gerry Ritz should have been fired.

Noted in the RCMP affidavit on the Duffy matter

Interesting pickup by Alison at Creekside on the RCMP sworn information in relation to "Project Amble," the Duffy Senate matter:
According to RCMP Corporal Greg Horton's excellent summary :
On June 21, 2013 my office received a letter from Peter Mantas, which I have read, advising that Mr. Wright recalls that he told the following people that he would personally provide funds to repay Duffy’s claimed secondary residence expenses:
a. David van Hemmen (PMO)
b. Benjamin Perrin (PMO)
c. Chris Woodcock (PMO)
d. Senator Irving Gerstein
"Would" is future tense, seeming to indicate they were all advised before Wright wrote Duffy the cheque on March 26.
According to the affidavit then (para. 37), just to emphasize a point, Wright advised the RCMP that he told the above four individuals, in advance, that he would write the cheque.

Further, this group included Benjamin Perrin, the Prime Minister's former legal advisor.

Recall Perrin's statement:
I was not consulted on, and did not participate in, Nigel Wright’s decision to write a personal cheque to reimburse Senator Duffy’s expenses.
I have never communicated with the Prime Minister on this matter.
The RCMP affidavit notes at the end that Perrin "cannot meet investigators until after July 5th." Presumably the above two versions were or will be put to him, whenever that meeting happens.

Friday, July 12, 2013

One man in Lac Mégantic

This is a very powerful report on Raymond Lafontaine of Lac Mégantic who lost a son, two daughters-in-law and an employee in the train explosion. He's making a difference on the ground there in many ways, chief among them this:
In the minutes after Saturday’s explosion, he rushed to the town’s centre, using one of his front-end loaders to pour gravel and smashing buildings to stop the path of the flames. Then, beginning on Monday, he emerged to speak publicly and resolutely, a native son who shares his town’s grief — and carries its pride.

Shaking with rage he told reporters on Wednesday that he, personally, will make sure that trains of crude oil don’t pass through town the way they did before the blast.

“I am not a terrorist,” he said. “There is a way to organize this. That track was laid to transport wood. The government needs to put on its shoes,” he said, using a French expression for taking charge.
Lafontaine is striking a note that no politician has or perhaps could. And if he is doing so in Lac Mégantic, how many towns across the country are watching and having the same concerns?

Moodys has taken notice. Life could become quite different for the oil industry with means of transport and routes being challenged, increased costs and heightened scrutiny.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Place your Keystone bets

Joe Romm is betting it's off:
Harder writes:
To the surprise of everyone outside the White House, Obama mentioned the pipeline in his speech. It was a politically savvy move for three reasons: 1) He called out the elephant in the room and thus avoided both criticism from groups like the Sierra Club and the subsequent media coverage of his omission; 2) He took ownership of the issue, showing everyone on every side of the fight he is personally involved; and 3) He shifted the debate over the pipeline from one of economics to one about the effects on climate change.
I agree with #2 and #3 — which is precisely why I think the speech makes it less likely he will approve Keystone. Obama owns KXL and he’s said the deciding factor is climate, not economics. As a new Scientific American article sums things up, “If built, the Keystone XL pipeline will be a spigot that speeds tar sands production, pushing the planet toward its emissions limit.”
...
And folks who have been around Washington politics a lot longer than I have think it would be very un-savvy to spend so much time laying out a strong moral case for climate action and then bringing up Keystone IF the president is planning on approving it. He would have been far better off not talking about Keystone at all in that case. As it is now, he will rightfully be called an extreme hypocrite if he ultimately opens the spigot to the dirty tar sands.

There’s no question Obama could approve Keystone, but I believe the smart money has shifted from betting he will to betting he won’t.
CTV was reporting that Peter Kent may be moving on and therefore would be out as Environment Minister. Not sure there's much a new Canadian minister might do to sway the Obama administration but Keystone has got to be figuring into Harper's thinking. Is Rempel, currently the Parliamentary Secretary to Kent, the one?

Whoever it is, they're also going to have to deal with this burgeoning - and very warranted - focus on petcoke. This oil sands byproduct gained greater visibility recently given the Koch brothers' piling of it on the Detroit waterfront to the discomfort of Windsorites looking on from across the river.

We, for the most part, won't burn it for fuel due to its high emissions levels and the "Environmental Protection Agency will no longer allow any new licenses permitting the burning of petroleum coke in the United States." So it is largely being shipped overseas to China and Mexico, nations that don't care much about emissions levels. Shouldn't we Canadians be concerned about that? Particularly if Keystone were to be approved, with the amounts of petcoke that will be produced.

Over to you, next Harper environment minister.