NDP Elected in Nova Scotia â€“ What Now?
During the CEA meetings, I engaged in some provincial election talk with colleagues from Nova Scotia. I had just come off a brutal BC election campaign, in which the opposition stuck to a rather bland platform anchored in fiscal conservatism and axing the carbon tax. The NDP lost, and amid the subsequent soul-searching, leader Carole James just axed the axe the tax campaign, and will now pursue a “fix the tax” strategy. That said, the NDP polled higher in losing than when it won in 1991 and 1996, so perhaps that strategy was a political winner, after all.
In my briefings on Nova Scotia, I was dismayed to hear much of the same strategic thinking of BC at work on the Atlantic coast, and with victory in sight. And sure enough, last week the NDP won. Due to the lack of subsequent commentary, I asked Halifax correspondent and PEF steering committee member Brendan Haley for his thoughts:
NDP Elected in Nova Scotia â€“ What Now?
By Brendan Haley
The NDP has been elected in Nova Scotia with a majority government.Â Premier Darrell Dexter will name his new cabinet on Friday.Â This is the first NDP government elected east of Ontario in Canadaâ€™s history.
This is a victory a long time in the making.Â A major breakthrough for the party occurred more than ten years ago when the NDP tied for most number of seats with the Liberal party in 1998.Â Since that time the NDP has been the official opposition and quietly waiting to form government.Â That moment came in this election, with an unknown 3rd place Liberal leader and an unpopular and incompetent Conservative Premier.
The NDP ran a tightly organized and tightly lipped campaign, producing 7 key commitments.Â Amongst these commitments was the production of a balanced budget next year, an â€œexpenditure management reviewâ€ to save 1% in non-essential spending, removal of the sales tax from electricity consumption, a 50% rebate of the provincial sales tax for new home construction, keeping emergency rooms open, improve training for young people and tax incentives to keep young people in the province.
With all of the promise of balanced budgets, no new taxes and more tax cuts, the Conservativeâ€™s â€œRisky NDPâ€ Socialist Red Scare campaign was totally absurd and fell completely flat with voters tired of the ineptitude of their existing premier and comfortable with Darrell Dexter.
One has to wonder at this point how exactly the NDP government will handle the provinceâ€™s current situation.Â The province has, thus far, been less hard hit by the recession.Â Halifax is quietly attracting financial, insurance and research intensive economic activity.Â But, many of the traditional, resource-based industries (forests, farming, and fishing) outside of Halifax are potentially on the brink.Â The province also has one of the dirtiest energy systems in the country, getting 75-80% of its electricity from coal and is one of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Nova Scotia desperately needs to make investments so it doesnâ€™t miss out on the next wave of innovation.Â It needs substantial investments to be made through electric rates and taxes (or both) to harness some of the best wind and tidal resources in the world and to unlock itself from its fleet of antiquated coal-fired power plants.Â It needs to keep young people in the province and take advantage of its strong university sector through education, training and apprenticeship programs.Â It needs to find strategies to revitalize its rural communities â€“ perhaps through a strategy for community-based renewable energy generation.Â And its needs a real strategy to provide social services for the provinces ageing population and reduce poverty in a province with a lack of adequate housing and youth opportunities, especially amongst First Nations .
Many of these issues have been talked about in the province for years in the community sector, university sector and in forums such as the Premiers Advisory Council on Innovation which suggested an innovation strategy focused on the â€œenvironmental economyâ€.Â But a real â€œvisionâ€ never really came forth from any of the political parties during the election.
So one is left to wonder what tack the provincial NDP is going to take.
To attract rural votes the party put together some forward looking strategies for the forestry and agriculture sectors.Â For forestry a one-year incentive to increase demand for wood products and a long-term plan which included more sustainable harvesting practices and reductions in GHG emissions.Â For agriculture a local food strategy, strategic farm research, marketing support and other process improvements.
But one is left to wonder how the NDP will tackle these economic times and prepare the province for the future with their insistence on â€œbalanced budgetsâ€, which could also mean a lack of forward-thinking investments.Â In fact Dexterâ€™s promise to avoid new spending includes capital investments, which prompted the provinceâ€™s major newspaper to give him the following advice:
Mr. Dexter sounds excessively cautious in saying future capital spending should not add to the debt.Â That would mean running budget surpluses large enough to cover new capital, often making it hard to both balance the budget and keep infrastructure up to date.Â A better approach is to keep the carrying costs of borrowing for new capital at a manageable level in the operating budget. (The Chronicle-Herald Editorial â€“ May 16th, 2009)
Mr. Dexter could also take the advice of Duncan Cameron
The spectre for meaningful investments is even further deteriorated by Dexterâ€™s promises of tax cuts, most prominently a $28 M tax cut to take the 8% sales tax off of electricity.Â The $1 M promised for energy retrofits pales in comparison to the $28 M tax cut pledge.Â This is of real concern for a province with some very real energy poverty issues and one of the oldest housing stocks in Canada.
The NDP might not be all that supportive of investments in a more energy efficient province through electric rates either.Â Nova Scotia has recently set ambitious and leading-edge efficiency targets for its electricity sector that will prevent it from having to build another coal-fired power plant estimated to add another $1 billion in net present value costs.Â But during the election, the NDP announced that it opposed the electric surcharge that would be paid for the efficiency program, with no details of their alternative.
The NDP proposed a number of impossible public policies during the campaign.Â They insisted that the province was in a deep deficit, but that they would balance it within a year without raising taxes and by giving a series of tax cuts.Â They expressed support for energy efficiency, but not if you have to pay for it.Â So which side of these issues will the NDP come down on?
Even though the policies appear contradictory and as Thomas Walkom said â€œfiscally at least â€“ to the right of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harperâ€, it is important to recognize the potentially path-breaking change the election of the NDP could bring to Nova Scotia politics.Â This has been consistently emphasized by the Herald columnist Ralph Surette who hopes the NDP mounts the â€œthird great reform movement in Nova Scotiaâ€™s snarled political history…to actually change our bad (patronage-ridden) political cultureâ€.
Perhaps the biggest promise of the election of the NDP is that government will actually appoint the best people and make the best day-to-day decisions instead of catering to party patronage and the â€œold boysâ€ network of the province.
The intersection between Suretteâ€™s views on patronage politics and Dexterâ€™s fiscal policies seems to be that the debt that Nova Scotia owes is not because of too much spending but because previous Tory and Liberal governments spent money on patronage and pork-barrel instead of making wise investments.
So who knows.Â Maybe there actually is room for a 1% cut across the board in patronage projects and the NDP will find ways to redirect the money of the people of Nova Scotia towards actual investments in a more green, equitable and prosperous future?
Premier Darrell Dexter certainly holds the trust of the people of Nova Scotia at this moment.Â I believe this is less due to his â€œconservative progressiveâ€ policies than due to his friendly demeanour and persistent patience, which allowed Conservative Premier Rodney MacDonald fall over his own feet.
With four years of majority government we can be hopeful for the emergence of Suretteâ€™s â€œthird reformâ€ movement in the footsteps of Joe Howe and â€œProgressive Conservativeâ€ Robert Stanfield.Â If Dexter is to follow in the footsteps of these highly respected men he will have to park many of the short-sighted, contradictory, opportunistic and poll-driven policies espoused during the election and use the trust he has garnered to propose, discuss and implement good policy with the people of Nova Scotia.
I lived in Nova Scotia for 2 years, out at Five Island Lake, and I see the question of electricity is still on the table.
Could someone explain why there is no deal available with Quebec on a supply of electricity?
Looks like a shaky future.
INteresting article on the Nova Scotia NDP victory. Here is my guess at what will happen: Dexter will balance the budget and use the P3 strategy from the UK along with some UK-style government “reform”. The poor will be no better off and neither will the environment. Middle class voters will be impressed with a new level of “professionalism”, turn out will drop at the next election, and the NDP will be re-elected with one or two fewer seats.
Brendan and I know each other, and its a change of pace for me to be taking the position that is more skeptical of the NSNDP.
I’d first like to comment on the parallel that Marc Lee and a number of others from BC and Ontario have drawn between the general positioning of the ‘axe the tax’ BCNDP, and the NSNDP. I can understand where people see the similarities, but they are only superficial. Thats another discussion which I’m not sure is useful in the first place, and would be a diversion right now. I justed wanted to put it out there. And viz one of the comments: it is extremely unlikley given past history here, that P3 will be used as a budget crunch.
There is in Brendan’s ‘lets wait and see what the NDP government does’ comment, a de facto focus about energy and climate change action policy, even though the comments are about progressive policy in general. My more cautionary comment is only about the energy use issues which Brendan raised, and not a comment about what we might expect in general from the NDP government.
[Momentary tangent to express how much satisfaction it gives me, that even when I am being critical, the simple visceral pleasure of speaking of THE NDP government- that being OUR government, right here in Nova Scotia.]
Even before the election, as Brendan said, the NSNDP “expressed support for energy efficiency, but not if you have to pay for it.” They did not say the latter. But all the most public positions they have taken, some of which Brendan alluded to, made that all too clear.
And among the several narrowing of options for progressive policy the NSNDP took, the promise of no deficits AND no tax increases impacts what can be done specifically on energy use and climate change action, as does the nixing of the proposed Nova Scotia Power surchage for energy efficiency conversion that Brendan mentioned.
These were not helpful. But neither did they eliminate the possibility that the new government would find a different means of making headway on these fronts.
But the recent Cabinet selection gave us a further look at how little, if any, a priority that Dexter and his closest advisers attaches to energy use policy and climate change action. Both the Energy and Environment portfolios were tacked onto the load of a minister with a far greater priority, and are individuals who have shown no past interest in the issues.
The 12 member cabinet promise [including Dexter] was another one made to kneecap right wing criticism of the NSNDP before it started. While not enthusiastic about it, its not a promise I’m going to second guess, nor do I think in itself it will make for serious problems.
At any rate, doubling up portfolios was a consequence of that promise. And everybody is going to be miffed at some of the choices made. But the doubling up problem did not make it a given that BOTH Energy and Environment portfolios would get such second class status. In fact, those two portfolios would have made a good combination and contributed more to an overall distribution of portfolios than did the actual combination of Fisheries and Environment. I’m glad that an MLA fisher is the new Fisheries minister. But on a provincial level it is a less time consuming portfolio than Energy is now in Nova Scotia [because of both offshore and diversification / climate change action issues]. If we can have a Fisheries/Environment ministerial combination, then an Energy/Environment combination would have helped the overall cabinet load distribution at least as much… and been an excellent base for addressing climate change action.
The easy answer to that is that sacrifices had to be made in the portfolio distribution. True. But no coincidence that BOTH portfolios crucial to climate change action eneded up being BOTH second fiddle, AND split between two people who have no significant prior experience in them.
Taken together with past indications of Dexter’s own priorization, this is not an auspicious start.
I agree with Brendan that we have plenty of reason to hope that the early self imposed limits will not be over-determining. But on the energy use and environment fronts at least, I think it is going to take some combination of outside pressure/lobbying. And some creative suggestions of how the new government can politicaly and/or fiscaly ‘thread the needle’ would be most helpful.
The ‘7 commitments’ sound a great deal like the ‘5 commitments’ that Gary Doer made in wining the Manitoba election in 1999. (basically don’t commit to much of anything that will hamstring the party in power).
I understand, but I’ve not seen anything concretely written, that Darrel Dexter has very closely followed the NDP Manitoba model, both in terms of winning elections, and in terms or pretty much permanently displacing the Liberals as the ‘center left’ political option.
So, my guess would be, look at what Gary Doer has done in Manitoba as much as possible for the model that Dexter will follow.
I’m sure I’m less ‘left wing’ than most of the writers here, but I agree with the wind and tidal power ideas. I was disappointed that Vicki Conrad didn’t get into cabinet (not yet anyway). It is interesting though that in the Nova Scotia NDP there is Vicki Conrad who was part of a group that raised private capital for wind energy projects and Becky Kent who used to own a preschool. I can imagine in the public sector union dominated NDP here in B.C that both of those people would be persona non grata in a B.C NDP caucus.
Obviously encouraging the private development of wind, tidal and solar power (and whatever other forms of alternative energy look good) in Nova Scotia is one way for the NDP to balance budgets while trying to move the province off of coal. I hope the Nova Scotia NDP does not get caught up in the ‘private power is bad’ attitude that the loony left of the NDP here sadly has fallen into.
Please post this instead (if you post it at all :)), I forgot to add in the paragraph breaks after I wrote:
The â€˜7 commitmentsâ€™ sound a great deal like the â€˜5 commitmentsâ€™ that Gary Doer made in wining the Manitoba election in 1999. (basically donâ€™t commit to much of anything that will hamstring the party in power).
I understand, but Iâ€™ve not seen anything concretely written, that Darrel Dexter has very closely followed the NDP Manitoba model, both in terms of winning elections, and in terms or pretty much permanently displacing the Liberals as the â€˜center leftâ€™ political option.
So, my guess would be, look at what Gary Doer has done in Manitoba as much as possible for the model that Dexter will follow.
Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™m less â€˜left wingâ€™ than most of the writers here, but I agree with the wind and tidal power ideas. I was disappointed that Vicki Conrad didnâ€™t get into cabinet (not yet anyway). It is interesting though that in the Nova Scotia NDP there is Vicki Conrad who was part of a group that raised private capital for wind energy projects and Becky Kent who used to own a preschool. I can imagine in the public sector union dominated NDP here in B.C that both of those people would be persona non grata in a B.C NDP caucus.
Obviously encouraging the private development of wind, tidal and solar power (and whatever other forms of alternative energy look good) in Nova Scotia is one way for the NDP to balance budgets while trying to move the province off of coal. I hope the Nova Scotia NDP does not get caught up in the â€˜private power is badâ€™ attitude that the loony left of the NDP here sadly has fallen into.
This was my first intro to this organization. I found the article linked from rabble.ca. I liked the thoughtful comments, and have bookmarked the site However, as I live in Nova Scotia, I believe that Brendan Haley is not just a ‘progressive economist’, but a person who ran against the NDP for the Green Party in the election he comments on. In the interests of transparency, I do think that should have been mentioned somewhere in the article.
I can’t find any mention of Brendan Haley running for the Green Party in the recent Nova Scotia election.
A Brendan McNeil ran for the Green Party in Kings South.
I was hoping that Brendan Haley had run for the Green Party in Nova Scotia because that would likely have meant that he wasn’t wedded to the idea that all energy generation must be done by the public sector.
Not that I have any idea what his views on it are.
Odd that I can do paragraph breaks now.
I agree that I like this site. I’m a former economics student myself (completed 3rd year) and I consider myself on the center left side of things.
I dislike (maybe too rabidly at times) those on the hard left or right so, I suppose I could be considered to be in the radical center.
Checking back, it is wonderful to see so many comments on this.
In response to Penny Wise, I did not run for the Green Party. Nor have I ever been a member of the Green Party. You might be thinking of Brendan MacNeill who is the deputy leader of the NS Greens. For full disclosure, I was formerly the energy and climate change coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia.
Dennis starts off with a very good question about importing Quebec hydro. Talking about the need for investments in Nova Scotia, I actually wished I made it more clear that the investment to bring more renewables online in Nova Scotia is a restructuring of the electric grid. Building a new internet-like energy highway.
Quebec hydro is not frequently discussed. What is being discussed is bringing in energy from a new big-hydro projected in Churchill Falls Labrador into the maritimes and then into New England. The hydro power could allow Nova Scotia to bring on many more renewables since hydro can complement renewable energy intermittency. However, the environmental implications and costs are something to consider.
Regardless of whether the Churchill Falls hydro project should be developed and whether it comes through Nova Scotia, the province still needs to get on with making grid upgrades and it needs to start considering the buildling of a “smart grid” with energy storage and demand response ability to complement renewables.
But a big transmission line or a “smart grid” or both costs money, but so does staying dependent on volatile fossil fuels.
The question is if the NDP will close its eyes to the province’s precarious energy situation and just hope it won’t get blamed for the rate increases that will come and energy insecurity that the province faces. Or will it recognize the potential economic development benefits of sustainable energy and make the needed investments in transmission through either electric rates or taxes – or both?
My apologies. I have the wrong “Brendan” – Brendan McNeil ran for the Greens. Sorry for any misunderstanding.
There is a lot of talk in Nova Scotia about upgrading our grid to accommodate renewables. The deputy minister of energy and all of our politicians go on about it. I think that’s code for “Nova Scotia Power wants buckets of money to add renewables”, because the grid isn’t a that big an obstacle. NSP buy’s half a billion dollars of foreign fuel each year. A new line to bring power from the eastern shore to Halifax costs half that. A better link to New Brunswick would be in the same ballpark.
The grid improvement costs, when mortgaged over 20 years are small, but small power increases are toxic at the polls. I suspect little will happen until emission regulations flow down or coal prices spike.
After my skeptical comments that the new government is going to need pressure and strategy suggestions around energy production and use, I thought I would add to Brendan’s commendation of some forward looking forestry strategies for the election.
Forestry is by far the number one industry, and we’ve been debating sustainability issues for years now. There were a lot of policy decisions in the offing; and the choice of the Natural Resources Minister is encouraging, as is the fact that environmentalists were already very close in the NDP around that issue.
I suppose there are some general lessons beyond Nova Scotia and the NSNDP in how that is true around forestry, and not so true around energy use and climate change… even when it is virtually the same environmental NGOs in the picture. My inclination is to chalk up the outcome differences somewhat to ‘luck’- like who happens to be involved on the NDP side of the relationships, rather than to different approaches taken, etc.
At any rate, the forestry industry is so powerful here that it is all too possible this promise will come to nothing. Even so, its worth noting that we have a real possibility of substantial progress in an industry that has considerably more impact on jobs and bottom lines than does energy production- where the NSNDP has so far shown itself to be disinclined to taking any risks.
“I hope the Nova Scotia NDP does not get caught up in the â€˜private power is badâ€™ attitude that the loony left of the NDP here sadly has fallen into.”
I wonder who authored the “public power is bad” theory that now drives BC’s electricity policies? Could it be those business interests who seek to develop private hydro and other projects? Just thought I’d ask.
I know of one person from the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union who is going to the national NDP convention in Halifax, and you can be sure he’ll be arguing against the privitization of electrical generation. Does that make him “loony”?
“Nova Scotia desperately needs to make investments so it doesnâ€™t miss out on the next wave of innovation. It needs substantial investments to be made through electric rates and taxes (or both) to harness some of the best wind and tidal resources in the world and to unlock itself from its fleet of antiquated coal-fired power plants.”
I disagree with this, I think a combination of both old and new sources of energy would be better to control costs medium, to long term because of unforeseen consequences of governments new energy investment guides.
Wean vehicles off of one limited resource â€” petroleum â€” and get them hooked on another: lithium. Thatâ€™s what some critics have raised about switching over to electric cars that use lithium-ion batteries, since the U.S. imports most of its lithium from Chile and Argentina, while Bolivia has enough deposits to become a major lithium provider. But amid all the hubbub about the looming lithium squeeze, another resource trend is taking shape that has the potential to drive some big changes in advanced battery and vehicle technology: a group of metals known as rare earth elements, or REE.
According to Lux Research analyst Jacob Grose, â€œRare earths are used very much in nickel metal hydride batteries,â€ like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight. â€œEven thoughâ€¦hybrids use only a fraction of the worldwide output of these metals, if there is a shortage and prices rise, it will definitely lead to cost increases in todayâ€™s hybrids.â€
REE, used in fiber-optic telecom cables, military gear, computers and other technologies IPODs, arenâ€™t actually as uncommon as the name implies. Some of them are about as abundant as industrial metals like nickel, copper, zinc and lead. For comparison, the two least abundant REE (thulium and lutetium) are almost 200 times more common than gold. But the problem is itâ€™s rare for these metals to become concentrated in deposits that are easy to tap, and as a result, most of the worldâ€™s supply comes from just a few sites.
Among the rare earths that would be most affected in a shortage is neodymium, the key component of an alloy used to make the high-power, lightweight magnets for electric motors of hybrid cars, such as the Prius, Honda Insight and Ford Focus, as well as in generators for wind turbines.
Close cousins terbium and dysprosium are added in smaller amounts to the alloy to preserve neodymium’s magnetic properties at high temperatures. Yet another rare earth metal, lanthanum, is a major ingredient for hybrid car batteries.
Worldwide demand for rare earths, covering 15 entries on the periodic table of elements, is expected to exceed supply by some 40,000 tonnes annually in several years unless major new production sources are developed. One promising U.S. source is a rare earths mine slated to reopen in California by 2012.
Production of both hybrids cars and wind turbines is expected to climb sharply amid the clamor for cleaner transportation and energy alternatives that reduce dependence on fossil fuels blamed for global climate change.
The U.S. & Canada has some of the largest known deposits of REE (pdf download), but since the 1990s itâ€™s been importing most of its REE from China, according to the U.S. Geological Survey and Canadian Surveys. Thatâ€™s partly because Chinese companies came online and ramped up production, helping to drive down prices to a point where U.S. companies have found it difficult to compete. Years ago the primary domestic supplier of REE, Colorado-based Molycorp, encountered several wastewater leaks (spilling radioactive waste into a nearby lake), its mining permit expired and it stopped mining.
But the market for REEs is set to explode over the next few years, one Im invested, pretty much My investment strategy goes anything with a finite supply that people will need. Reuters reported that demand for these metals is on track to exceed supply by some 40,000 metric tons per year within the next â€œseveral yearsâ€ unless new production comes online. Molycorp is reportedly hoping to do just that, with plans to reopen its mine in Californiaâ€™s San Bernadino County in 2012 with new environmental safeguards. At the same time, however, China is considering limits on REE exports â€” something that Grose said â€œis indeed a concern for the hybrid vehicle industry.â€
An REE squeeze, brought on through politics or simple resource depletion, could have repercussions â€” and drive innovation â€” beyond hybrid vehicles. Even cars made with lithium-ion batteries (the technology of choice for the upcoming generation of all-electric cars) often have an REE called neodymium in the magnets used to make their electric motors. According to Grose, â€œIf the price of neodymium skyrockets, automakers might go to less common types of motorsâ€ that donâ€™t require these magnets or the rare metals, such as wound-rotor motors.
So similar to the way in which battery makers whose technologies use less lithium could enjoy an advantage if lithium prices jump, and the way thin-film solar became the hot new thing when polysilicon shortages shook the photovoltaic industry last year, innovators working around commodities like neodymium could find a window of opportunity in an REE crunch.
Not to mention the Geo-Political implications that China has recently inserted Rare-earth molycorp metals are the key to 21st Century technology: Without them, we wouldnâ€™t have smartphones, hybrid cars or precision weapons. And China, which mines most of the worldâ€™s rare-earth metals, may be starting to catch on to their strategic value.
According to this alarming story in Britainâ€™s Telegraph, Chinaâ€™s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is weighing a total ban on exports of terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium â€” and may restrict foreign sales of other rare-earth metals. But donâ€™t panic yet: U.S.-based Molycorp Minerals is preparing to resume mining of rare earth ore deposits at a California facility, pictured here.
Still, itâ€™s a reminder of the role that strategic resources play, especially for the high-tech military of the United States. As I reported a few years back in the Financial Times, the Pentagon has become increasingly concerned over Chinese demand for specialty steels and titanium, which are key to armor plating, aircraft design and other high-end weaponry. Finding new, affordable sources of military-grade titanium has been a top priority of Darpa, the Pentagonâ€™s far-out research arm
Of course, China is not the only country thatâ€™s figuring out how to play the mineral-wealth hand in geopolitics. For several years now, Russia has used natural-gas supply as a way to exert less-than-subtle pressure on its neighbors. Energy, the Kremlin found, is a more effective instrument than an aging nuclear-weapons stockpile: You can actually turn the gas taps off when you feel like punishing someone.
As an old piece of wisdom from the Strategic Air Command put it, â€œWhen you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.â€
what now hahahahhahahahahahhaahhahahhhaaaa gezzzzzzzzz well in my opinion shove way over , be prepared to have it ,what ever it is taken from you ,
more new imagrents comin, get ready to loose , suffer.all that you need when your older youll loose to the cause , pay higher taxes,and more on gas,
get less pay for your working ,cause the companies have full swing and want to have themselves
exempted from having to pay no more then minamum wage if they can get away with it ive myself have had it with all the old parties , and the new ones are as far fetched as you can get, in the words of my friend ” were screwed ” at least till we get someone who dares to challenge the powerfull ones
good luck to all you great people with your high dreams and expectations i hope for you sakes you
soon get the saviour you seek***************