Why Canada Does Not Need a Dispute Mechanism in NAFTA

One of the most contentious issues between Canada and the United States on North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is chapters 11, 19 and 20 the dispute mechanisms.  Chapter 19 is the one most are fired up about:

…binational panel of five arbiters, agreed upon by both parties, who will determine whether or not the duties have merit based on U.S. domestic laws.

Source: macleans.ca/opinion/why-naftas-chapter-19-is-worth-fighting-for/ 

CANADIAN ARGUMENT FOR THE NAFTA DISPUTE MECHANISM:

Canada has politely stated that the United States is a massive economy with leadership that have inflated ego’s which are tied directly to high powered, big money, special interests.  The combination means that without a dispute mechanism, US politicians will frequently bring unfair claims of NAFTA breaches that Canada will not be able to defend against.  Canadian media and politicians (and even some American observers) have gone so far as to call this demand a ‘poison pill‘ using the logic that they know there is no-way Canada will accept a contract without a dispute process.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvrzlCFQ8eU

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Trump Brings in 30% Tariff on Solar Panels, Temporarily Killing .25M US Jobs

On Monday January 22, 2018, the Trump administration brought in a 30% tax on imported solar panels.   This new solar tax will last four years and decrease over time to 15% in its last year.

“Over the last 5 years, nearly 30 American solar manufacturers collapsed; today the President is sending a message that American innovation and manufacturing will not be bullied out of existence without a fight… This is a step forward for this high-tech solar manufacturing industry we pioneered right here in America.”
pressreleasepoint.com/trump-imposes-tariffs-solar-panels 

PUNISH CHINA?

Of the few that have heard of this new tariff, the common misconception is that it is an attempt to punish China from dumping (selling below cost, to kill competitors) panels but the US only imports 10% of its solar panels from China (see the last 30 seconds of the video below).  As you can see in the video below, the US solar industry did not ask for and does not want this tariff.

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VIDEO: Short Summary of What is Happening With Net Neutrality in the US?

First world governments around the world, including Canada  have come down on the side of Net Neutrality (the idea that internet providers can not advance or block one website or stream).  The notable exception to this is the United States under President Trump’s appointed FCC leader (and former Verizon executive) Ajit Pai, which has eliminated the Obama era rules protecting an open internet in December 2017.

The Republican / Ajit Pai / Trump argument is that the infrastructure is owned by the internet providers so they should be able to do what they want with it.  The opposing view, held by most citizens is that the internet is like electricity or a phone; charge for the service but it is not the providers concern what is or is not connected.

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How To Fix the Post Office: Alternating Day Delivery & Community Lockers

USPS-Post-Trucks-Parking-lotThe US Postal Service lost $5.6B in 2016.  Today the Liberal Canadian Federal Government announced that it would not reinstate home delivery of mail and all of the pundits cried… on both sides (see video at the bottom of this message). It is predicted that Canada Post will be loosing $700M per year in the near future.   These types of numbers are large enough that citizens just don’t understand them but rest assured, in the end, citizens are going to pay those bills, mostly through increased taxes.

Canada-Post-Trucks-Parking-lotThere are many idea’s about how to ‘fix’ the Post Office including:

Those are all great ideas and should be pursued, but there are two other idea’s that we have never heard anyone else suggest, and I think most reasonable people will get behind.

You can balance any budget shortfall by cutting costs or expanding revenue:

1: Alternating Day Delivery

Most people, even older people do not get ‘real’ mail every day, so why are we paying to have it delivered every day?  Why not cut the number of delivery workers in half, delivering mail (to the door or box) on this schedule:

Week 1: Monday Wednesday Friday
Week 2: Tuesday Thursday

With virtually no practical decrease in service, the Post Office would be able to have massive staff cut (160,000 letter carriers the US, and 12,500 letter carriers in Canada) and 33% reduction their small truck fleet.

A rough estimate of the ANNUAL labor savings would be $8.1B (16000 x $51600) in the US and $625M (12500 x $50000) in Canada.

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A Tale Of Two Cities: How Chestermere is Spending $100K More Than Lacombe To Find a New CAO

In a vacuum it is often difficult to see the value of one city’s processes over another.  There are always differences that outsiders do not understand.  However, there are unique situations in which very similar cities perform the same task at the same time but one costs radically more.  We found just such a circumstance and are comparing the search for a City Manager in Chestermere with that in Lacombe.

Let’s start by showing their similarities:

  • Both are similar size cities in Alberta
  • Both have very similar annual budgets
  • Both are located just outside major cities (Calgary & Edmonton)

WHAT IS A CAO?

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A Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) is the ONLY employee of your City Council.  Under the Alberta Municipal Government Act (MGA) those elected to Council are explicitly forbidden from giving direction to staff; only the CAO can hire, fire and direct staff.  The CAO is sometimes referred to as the City Manager and that is a good description.  CAO’s must be intimately familiar with the Alberta MGA and generally well connected in the municipal political sphere.

Put simply the CAO prevents elected officials from breaking the law and translates the will of City Council into action with city staff, so it is an important position to be sure.

The real question should be “how much is that position worth” but that is a discussion for another day.  Today, we are looking at what it costs to hire them and we think you will be startled by the numbers.  Specifically, what are the costs incurred between the time the old CAO left and the new CAO started.

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The Poor Are Getting Much Richer In Canada

In a world of ever increasing political division in which those on the ‘right’ side of the spectrum are forever vilified for cutting social programs and making tough choices to balance budgets, it was quite refreshing to see that under a Conservative federal government in Canada, the poor became much less so.

Quartz research released a study of Statistics Canada data titled “The American dream still exists—in Canada”.  It showed that between 2013 and 2016 poorest 20% grew TWICE as fast as Canada’s richest 20%.  Canada poorest had their incomes move up a staggering 24% in just 4 years.

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VIDEO: How The Left Plans To Win the 2019 Alberta Election

Recently I attended a Progress Alberta event titled ‘Emergency Town Hall: Why Progressives Can Win in 2019’.  This event had four notable presenters and I was very pleased that they allowed me to record the event.  Personally, I found sessions 3 and 4 (below) on how the left has to respect the United Conservative Party and Jason Kenny to be the most interesting.

The ‘Coles Notes’ version of the night would be:

  • Calgary will be the only notable battleground in the 2019 election
  • Alberta is far more left than presented in the media
  • Jason Kenny is a machine that must not be underestimated
  • The left has a natural role in governing that is not understood or accepted by the general public
  • Conservatives own the media, including social media
    • I find it amusing that every side thinks the other side controls the media
  • The center cannot consistently win elections, which could be extended to ‘people need a common enemy to rally around and that means left or right’

1: Why Progressives Can Win in 2019 Alberta: Alberta is More Progressive Than You Think – 8 mins

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7 US States Already Allow GM’s New ‘Cruise’ FULLY Autonomous Car Service

gm-cruise-autonomous-boltAutonomous cars and trucks are steaming at us at a surprisingly rapid pace.  Fully autonomous vehicles are not the stuff of 2025, they are the stuff of late 2018.  Seven US States already allow GM, Tesla, Uber and other autonomous car makers to drive limited numbers of vehicles with no driver.  In Canada, Ontario allows autonomous vehicles in approved cities and towns.

GM executives told investors in 2016 that by 2025, autonomous vehicle cost reductions and increased consumer adoption would combine to drive the price down to less than $1 per mile, or about a third of current ride-hailing prices.

In 2017 GM had more autonomous vehicles on the road that any other company in the world.  In California 20 of the autonomous cars were involved in accidents but not a single one of them was found to have the autonomous car at fault.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4y09TnE4QE

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VIDEO: Highlights of the Canadian Federal Government Carbon Tax

On January 15 2018, the Canadian Federal Government laid out the details of it plan to implement a  $50/tonne carbon tax in proposed legislation named the “Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act”.  The highlights are:

  • The Federal Tax will only apply in Provinces and Territories that do not have a comparable carbon tax already in place
    • That means, as of today, it will apply only to 20% of the Canadian population
    • Specifically those in Saskatchewan, most Atlantic provinces, NWT, Nunavut, Yukon will be subject to the Canadian Federal carbon levy
    • Newfoundland & Labrador and others are expected to announce their own carbon tax systems in the spring of 2018
  • The tax will start at $10/tonne in 2018 and will be at $50/tonne by the end of 2022
  • There are two parts to the system, a consumer gas tax and and industrial emissions tax

Consumer Gas Tax:

  • 2018 Gasoline = $0.023 / liter       2022 Gasoline = $0.115 / liter
  • 2018 Diesel = $0.027 / liter             2022 Diesel = $0.135 / liter
  • 2018 Propane = $0.015 / liter         2022 Diesel = $.075 / liter

Industrial Carbon Emissions Tax:

  • The tax is an “output based system” which means it will be charged where the carbon is released (think burning gasoline in your car vs producing gasoline)
  • Only those companies that produce more carbon than the average today will pay the carbon tax
    • Before the end of 2018 the Canadian Government will evaluate each industrial sector (think Oil & Gas, Mining, Transportation…) and determine the current average energy used per unit of output in each of those sectors
    • Companies that produce more carbon than industry average will have to buy carbon credits
    • Companies that produce less carbon than the industry average will be able to sell the difference in carbon credits

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VIDEO: The Price of Carbon

Do you want to understand Global Warming without the political hype? Dr. David Maenz has written and important book for 2018 explaining the science of global warming, it’s impacts and viable solutions. The Price of Carbon is an easy read. You don’t have to be a climate scientist to understand his clear explanations and simple charts.

The book includes a brief history of the earth, where we are today, future climate scenarios and how to fix the problems. It also covers the Paris accord without the political furor.

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Recycling Crisis as China Closes Doors To Junk Plastic & How EPR Can Help Solve It

There is a global crisis with municipal recycling programs that is affecting YOUR community as of January 1st 2018.  China is now rejecting all used plastic, except “high grades”.  High Grades are used materials that are fully sorted.  This means mixed plastics, aka Low Grade, will no longer be taken.  The problem for us is that we rely on China’s cheap and efficient labour force to sort low grade plastics for us.

This video explains the Chinese “National Sword” policies that bans 24 different types of products (read: mixed paper, mixed plastic and mixed clothing) and how the US is beginning to deal with this.

We talked to Dr. Christina Seidel, Executive Director of the Recycling Council of Alberta about this issue earlier today.  She said that “… (consumer) education is good.  We need to be more careful about what goes in…(to the recycling system).

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Alberta’s Carbon Tax: The Right Tax at the Right Time?

Alberta's Carbon TaxIt used to be very clear that Alberta had a spending problem and not a revenue problem.  However, since the 2014 oil crash, the world and Alberta have forever changed.  Historically, oil ‘busts’ were the result of a downturn in some key economy that reduced the demand for oil & gas products.  Today we have the worlds first notable price downturn caused by over production of oil, with no end in site.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin SalmanThis over production was started intentionally by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an effort to kill shale oil fracker’s and other non-state owned small players.  The idea was to have OPEC lead an over production that would drop the price of oil for a few years and force the marginal upstart players (i.e. US based frackers) out of the industry.  Then Saudi lead OPEC would reduce supply and drive the price back up.  Well, the Crown Prince was wrong and it didn’t work.

More importantly it won’t work in the future.  Saudi Arabia and friends can reduce the global price of oil by increasing production but they can no longer raise the price because they no longer control the global output, here’s why:

  1. American fracking companies scale up their oil production in a matter of weeks
  2. Canadian oil sands in Alberta and Saskatchewan have vast reserves backed by billion dollar upgrader investments that just keep coming online
  3. Iran, which has had its oil embargoed for decades, now is pushing 3 billions of barrels onto the open market as of the 2017 lifting of sanctions
  4. OPEC nations like Venezuela and Nigeria are desperate states the need cash and they will continue to cheat their OPEC agreements and produce produce produce
  5. Putin and Russia so desperately want to be a world powerhouse but only has an economy the size of Spain’s, with 20% of its citizens without even running water.  The Russian federal government gets nearly HALF of its revenue from oil so when the price drops, they just produce more which keeps pushing the price down.

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What Trump Got Right About US Foreign Policy:

Much has been said about the Trump administrations lack of a coherent foreign policy plan.  He seems to have changed to tone to an us vs them winner takes all approach without considering even the near term negative consequences of such an approach.

Even if that is correct, Trump definitely got something right on US Foreign Policy: US citizens stopped buying in the notional that the US should be the ‘Global Global Good Guy’.  Somewhere in the George Bush, Bill Clinton era, citizens saw an ever expanding, less than fully-coherent foreign policy that directly cost them billions of dollars, thousands of lives and the respect of many foreign citizens outside of the political class.

The US Government has thrown its weight around, with a view that it can do little wrong, since the end of World War II while US Citizens see and feel the losses.  The US Government has lost the ability to explain the vast positives that come from such interventions:

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