Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

It’s really all about winning the next election

with 5 comments

Michael Smyth, The Province

Published: Thursday, February 21, 2008

And people call me cynical!

What he does not mention is that prior to the budget there was a consultation process. And just like Campbell had to shift gears on health care “reform”, when people told him in no uncertain terms, they did not want more private care, so when the groundswell in favour of a carbon tax was heard, he decided to respond. How much credit Kevin Washbrook can take for this movement I do not know, but like many others I joined his facebook group, and sent in my twopence worth to the minister.

And no $10 a tonne is not enough, but we have to start somewhere. I was surprised to read somewhere (and now I can’t find it again) that the petroleum producers had even suggested $15 as a good starting point. And as for the pleading for the truckers, that is the fault of the industry who have moved away from employing people as truck drivers and making them subcontractors who bear all the risks. It is a similar sad story to the taxi industry, and a stern warning to those who see the potential of “self employment” as a way to financial independence. It isn’t – it is just a different kind of serfdom.

And the whole point of revenue neutrality seems to be deliberately missed, which is odd because moving to expenditure taxes instead of income taxes has long been the mantra of the right.

it will damage the British Columbia economy in the process.

I doubt it somehow. For one thing we are less carbon dependant than some. The more we move to services that can be delivered electronically, the more robust we become. Equally, reducing our dependence on imports, which will cost more as oil costs rise with or without carbon taxes, is also better for our long term survival. And speaking of which, while BC cannot change global climate on its own, it does need to start looking after its environment a lot better. Because the economy is a subsidiary of the environment – and if we do not have a healthy environment there will be no economy at all!

But he is right about one thing

while the government played the role of planet-savers on Tuesday with $1.8 billion worth of carbon taxes, the same budget pledged just $2 million toward rapid rail transit this year.

If Campbell is serious about getting drivers to switch to transit, he must supply fast, comfortable and efficient transit options first.


his government is spending billions of dollars on expanded highways and bridges

which is just plain stupid

Written by Stephen Rees

February 21, 2008 at 12:21 pm

5 Responses

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  1. I’m not sure whether you’re joking when you suggest, “The more we move to services that can be delivered electronically, the more robust we become.”
    I’ve heard another local pundit (Kevin Potvin) write more or less the same thing now for some time and what boggles my mind about this is the idea that these good somehow arrive from faraway places on a magic carpet or something. I can’t believe either of you could seriously consider online purchasing as minimizing our ecological footprint.
    It does exactly the reverse.

    It may make someone feel good to order a $7.00 item off e-bay, but any consideration of how it gets from “A” to “B” has to appreciate the energy costs involved. These include – but aren’t limited to – airplanes and trucks.
    Without this Internet thingee, the poor schmuck would just have to do without a 1973 KISS banner – instead of getting it hauled to Coquitlam from somewhere near Pensacola.
    How exactly that’s “good” for anybody is beyond me.

    I’m shocked and saddened that Kevin Potvin has apparently fallen prey to this ridiculous idea (based on a few of his columns I’ve read), so please Please PLEASE, tell me you’re not saying the same thing!


    February 21, 2008 at 9:36 pm

  2. Our economy used to be based on fish, trees and minerals. Vancouver used to be an industrial centre – look at early photos of False Creek. In recent years the shipbuilding, forest products and oil refining industries have all declined.Companies like Electronic Arts and McDonlad Dettwiler have become significant export earners here in recent years. There is not a lot of “metal bashing” here now. There are a lot of service businesses – including financial services. That is what I meant.

    And a lot of people are beginning to wonder why need to import so much “plastic crap” from China that only lasts a few months and cannot be repaired.

    Stephen Rees

    February 22, 2008 at 6:38 am

  3. Settled, I think you’re making too much of online shopping. A few trinkets bought on eBay isn’t going to make much difference to energy usage. When I look at my spending, only a tiny fraction of that has been online. I believe research has shown that people prefer to browse online, then go to a physical store to make the purchase. As energy costs increase, the lower prices that drive much online shopping (e.g. books from Amazon) will be unsustainable unless retailers find ways to consolidate shipping just as they do for physical stores.

    Not all the spending I have done online resulted in things in trucks: I’ve bought several e-books and software downloads. Other people are buying music tracks instead of CDs. Online shopping could eventually result in a net reduction in physical consumption.

    But that’s only the consumer side of the economy. I am a software developer. I recently worked for a client in Africa – without ever meeting them. The paid me for my expertise in my software; I believe they paid other developers – some of them local – to provide the intense face-to-face interactions required to communicate their needs. My software is open source, which makes this easier because there are no restrictions on sharing it or hiring local talent, but the principle is similar for other work. Being able to communicate and deliver online has even saved me car trips when working locally for a client at UBC.


    February 22, 2008 at 10:54 am

  4. Would that I could grind out the plans and reports (all are perfectly compactible with email) at home that I’m forced to at work, but my employer is not that progressive. Instead, I’m obligated to commute a total of 28 km a day by car, burning a finite resource on a route that does not have efficient transit or a closeby safe bike route.

    Many of my co-workers feel the same way … we need only be physically present at work two or three days out of five for meetings and such. There is probably a huge percentage of us workaday people out there in the same position, and we collectively represent a saving of many thousands of local tonnes of GHG emissions annually if allowed to.

    Alvin Toffler published a book 28 years ago called The Third Wave that, in part, alluded to the ‘Electronic Cottage’, where working at home was made increasingly easy with electronic devices. He was ahead of his time. How many of us knew anyone with a PC at home in 1980, let alone even heard of the Internet?


    February 22, 2008 at 3:19 pm

  5. Meredith, you’re right. I overemphasized the savings on the movement of people, which may not exist. On the one hand we have low rates of telecommuting (for good reasons I think), on the other specialist expertise increases the need to bring in people from far away. Still, the shift to resources and products that can be delivered and distributed over the wire is very significant.


    February 22, 2008 at 3:38 pm

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