Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Other Blog is the Milton Champion

Milton is blessed with not one but two local newspapers that almost everyone in town actually reads and is influenced by. One is the Halton Compass (formerly the North Halton Compass), which is one of the few surviving independent local papers left in the GTA. It's small, but mighty.

The other is Milton Canadian Champion - a Metroland paper that nonetheless has enough of a history in town (150 years) that it's managed to maintain its own character.

Not long after moving to Milton fourteen years ago, I discovered the power of a well written Letter to the Editor of the Champion. Over those years I've written several - the most effective of which was one decrying a proposed increase in the speed limit on my street. That one inspired a petition started by a little girl up the street, a series of supporting letters, and an invitation by my town councillor to speak as a delegate before council.

I brought maps, and photos, and traffic calming studies - and consequently my little stretch of road is still a school zone.

My point is, despite the emergence of the internet and the blogosphere as potent tools for political change, sometimes nothing beats a good, old fashioned letter in the local dead trees media for reaching the local masses. I highly recommend it.

Sometimes, though, these things take time.

I don't think I've ever written a letter to the Champion that was never published, but they have often delayed publication long enough for the subject to lose its relevence. Such might be the case of my response to this letter, published two weeks ago, from an emissions control specialist who claimed to have attended the Turner / Dion extravaganza last month and yet somehow came away with the impression that The Green Shift was a cap-and-trade system. I sent my letter immediately, but so far the only response they've published was one from... Garth Turner.


So, in case they never get around to printing my (vastly superior) letter, here it is in full:

To the Editor,

Jon Komow's recent letter critiquing the cap-and-trade system of pollution control was fascinating and obviously based on professional expertise. However, I'm not sure if he actually attended the same town hall meeting that I did because Stephane Dion's 'Green Shift' plan is not, in fact, a cap-and-trade system.

Perhaps he's thinking of another party. The NDP is proposing a cap-and trade system, and Jack Layton has criticized the Liberals for not doing the same. The Conservatives have brought in a sort of cap-and-trade system, although the 'cap' is actually an 'intensity target' and the 'trade' system has not actually been set up. And of course neither plan provides tax relief to individuals and businesses to offset the resulting cost increases.

I am also curious about his complaint that the U.S. pollution control credit system brought in 15 years ago (I'm assuming he's referring to the Clean Air Act of 1990) just allowed major polluters to keep on polluting. It's my understanding that that program directly resulted in a 40% reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions and a comparable reduction in acid rain levels. Even he cites the massive reduction in conventional air pollutants over the past four decades, so I'm not sure exactly what his argument is.

One other correction: previous Liberal governments (and a couple of Conservative ones) have, in fact, provided Ballard Power Systems with hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies and R&D funding over the past two and a half decades.

As for Mr. Komow's concerns about the business impact of a carbon tax, he would do well to consider what the impact will be when Europe and even the U.S. stop doing business with us because of our high carbon emissions. Or when Canadian businesses can simply no longer afford the carbon-based fuels they've come to depend on and find themselves with no alternatives.

In the coming years, businesses that cling to the past instead of embracing the new low-carbon economy are going to find themselves in dire straits, with or without a carbon tax. With the Green Shift, they will at least have some resources to help them adapt.

I strongly recommend that Mr. Komow and anyone else who is interested in the facts actually read the Green Shift plan at Read it, work out the costs and benefits, and decide for yourself if you find it sound. But please, base your decision on the facts and not on rumours or political fear mongering.

- Jennifer Smith

My only regret is that I didn't have access to that carbon tax economic impact study the Conservatives commissioned and subsequently buried in a drawer - along with that TASER report.

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