Rob Moir puts forward interesting ideas

NDP candidate Rob Moir has at least two things going for him: 1) he is blogging and 2) he has some interesting ideas. The following is a response he made to my criticism of his distributed emails as not proffering solutions. Here is is in its entirety with my comments below. Thanks, Rob.

Hi David;This is Rob Moir who is proud to run as a New Democrat in Fundy Royal.First, I will ask two questions of you. (1) Which of the other candidate has you on his mailing list? Which of the other candidates really talks about the economy other than through their “leader”?(2) Which of the other candidates is in fairly regular contact with Enterprise Fundy – not just as election campaigns start, but in between elections?

I don’t know of the answer to (1), but the answer to (2) is none.I agree with providing solutions – it is a mantra I tell the entire group of people who support me. Go back to the last election campaign – there was only one candidate that had a credible solution for local jobs. We promoted and promoted and promoted the Sussex Energy Park. Unfortunately, provincial newspapers did not see fit to mention that part of my campaign. After the campaign, our current MP, Mr. Moore, did absolutely nothing about it.

Let me address each of your points in turn, and then provide solutions that work for working people.(1) Refineries: I don’t like them but I agree they create jobs. A new refinery will export 100% of product to the US (the existing one already ships out over 50% of product). So, we get much needed jobs, but we also get pollution and we send product to the US (which earns profits for the Irvings). As I recall, I have asked repeatedly for a full federal panel review of the environmental impacts of the entire operations (I have not said shut down the project – we don’t have all the facts to draw that conclusion). As far as I can tell, there is a legal federal requirement for a full assessment because some of the emissions are on Environment Canada’s priority substance list number 1 (PSL1) – listing toxins and carcinogens. What, does Federal Law not apply in NB? Now suppose we get the assessment and as a result we are required to build a refinery with the world’s best emissions controls and carbon offsetting projects – is that a bad thing?

(2) Nuclear power: I have good friends that work in the industry and see the importance of it as part of a system. Why does NB need another plant if just to export to the US? The “green-ness” of nuclear power is much-touted, but the provincial government has never once said we’d use Lepreau 2 to replace our fossil-fuel plants. What exactly is our storage solution for spent fuel? Who pays (given we own NB power) for heightened security post 9/11? [The taxpayers by the way!] And here’s an interesting tidbit – why did Liberals and Conservatives in the last Parliament vote to cap liability from a nuclear event at $680 million [Bill C-5, check out]. Even the Three Mile Incident, which wasn’t a full melt-down, cost well into the billion dollar range. Moreover, every homeowner’s insurance has a clause nullifying the contract in the even of a nuclear incident.

(3) Forestry: Anyone who owns a woodlot, as do I, knows we are in dire straits. One corporation in the province runs virtually everything in the forestry sector. ECON 101 and Adam Smith warn us that this leads to problems. Let’s get to solutions. Federally, work to limit raw-log exports; Canadian wood is in high demand, why aren’t we adding value? Provincially, reinstate the “buy from private owners first” rule instead of selling off our crown wood at cut-rate (and lower) prices. Promote wood heat in the province. The cost of installing high efficiency wood-burning units in the 150,000 residences heated by electricity in NB is about $450 million – a far cry from the $8+ billion for Lepreau 2. $450 million is likely much smaller than the provincial liability on loans and incentive packages for Lepreau 2. Better yet, with wood heat we put people back to work in the forests. [By the way, I sent this idea to the Telegraph Journal over 4 months ago as part of an Opinion Piece, but they chose not to publish it – it isn’t that we don’t have solutions, we just aren’t allowed to publicize them in the traditional way]. We can look at compressed wood fuel (briquettes/pellets). We can look at wood as potential for non-food cellulosic bio-fuel. The Dutch, I believe, have worked out a way to refine bio-fuel from wood using existing in-place oil refineries. I’ve been chatting about these ideas for years in my Economics classes – the problem is it is very difficult to publish them in our newspapers.

Do I have a 5-point plan? Not exactly (these are limiting and generally feel-good jargon – see “Self-Sufficiency” for example).

Elsewhere in one of your columns, you listed 10 questions (I have been working out answers to all of them). Instead I have a few (these are not all) ideas, and then a 3-pillared platform (which will finish my reply).

(1) We have another pocket of stranded natural gas. Luckily for us, it is off of most people’s radar. Once again, I will promote an energy park.

(2) I see the growing importance of rail as worthy of investment. Rail is a cheaper as a method of shipping, and, with the right federal-provincial cooperation, can be a very viable alternative for commuter traffic. I would like to see some form of passenger service (e.g. light rail) from Moncton to Saint John, hubbing near Sussex, with the option of a new spur up to Fredericton if it is feasible. I could easily see the area outside of Sussex as a travel hub in the future given its proximity to the 3 major urban centres. Of course, I would work with people in Sussex to see if this is a plan they like.

(3) I would like to work on a federal government project that sees New Brunswick become a testing ground for energy production alternatives. We have many of the traditional sources (refining, fossil-fuel generation, nuclear, hydro). We could look to expand some semi-traditional sources (wood heat, natural gas, and perhaps oil shale). We could invest in alternatives (wood bio-fuel, cellulosic (non-food crop) bio-fuel, solar-bio hydrogen, wind, tidal, HVDC transmission, geo-thermal, etc.). Finally, we should find money to invest in Efficiency NB (McKinsey Global Institute points out that this form of energy investment has the highest rate of return). A federal investment package of this type would increase employment, put NB at the forefront of energy technology and R&D, and potentially build an export industry. We are likely the only province in which we could run all these comparisons at the same time, thus ensuring a degree of scientific validity.One can never tell what specific issues will arise during a session of parliament. As such, I think it is important to put together a vision that shows people how I will adapt to new information and new issues.

That said, my 3-pillared platform:

(1) As an MP, I will work COOPERATIVELY to get good things done for Fundy Royal, New Brunswick, and Canada. I am sick of party flag waving and “opposing because we’re in Opposition.”

(2) I will actively promote investment in COMMUNITY – investment of time on issues that matter to people, and work on local investment that promotes sustainable community economic development. We need to invest in hardworking families, small businesses, farmers, fishermen, and foresters.

(3) I am sick of accountability – it hasn’t really pulled us ahead. It is time for HONESTY, and the honesty I expect from myself I will expect from others, no matter the political stripe.

David – I have replied to your blog entry in detail. I most certainly am not just an activist – I am a pro-active activist with ideas and workable plans. I see a province and a riding worth investing in – and I have invested a lot of my time working on projects that will help us all.

The question is where do you stand? I’ve se
en nothing from the other candidates, indeed from most federal politicians across the province (with perhaps the exception of Yvon Godin), that gets to the nuts and bolts of building a sustainable economy that works for us all. Believe me, I have been looking.

This province needs positive change with a solid environmental economics focus. I have a huge challenge ahead because of voting tradition. I have a huge challenge ahead because the simple rules of the benefits of competition identified in ECON 101 pit me against some powerful business interests.

Can you help? Will you help? Please let me know if you’d like to be off of the mailing list. We can do it, but I would like to think of you as a valuable ally and source of constructive criticism.

Cheers, Rob

First, thanks for not being acrimonious. The natural human instinct when someone feels they have been aggrieved is to lash out. Your response is measured in tone and substantive.

I will reiterate that I didn’t take the time to actively research the platforms of federal candidates – at least during this election cycle – so your taking the time to flesh out ideas here will give you another up to 6,000 pairs of eyeballs – although I don’t know how many are in your riding.

I like your support of the energy park concept associated with stranded gas. This could be a very interesting way to have the gas developer receive a market rate for his/her production but at the same time have natural gas to the end user at significantly lower cost than most competitor locations (although it is hard to compete with some areas in the western US).

We agree on rail. As a kid I remember sitting in front of a two mile long train in Chicago and being fascinated. I would like Indian sub-continent cargo bound for the eastern seabord of the USA to be routed right through Sussex and down through Vanceboro. Over time, that would lead to dramatically lower shipping costs for NB companies.

Alternative energy -we agree – nuclear – not sure we agree. I haven’t formulated a position beyond my much quoted mantra that energy produced here should be used first for economic development here ahead of any export strategy.

Forestry – not much agreement here. The world will always need pulp and paper, and sawmill products and there is high value in them. The mills in this province pay average salaries in line with government bureaucrat salaries. If we shift over to lower wage industries like pellet mills – we have less jobs at lower wages.

However, your point about “installing high efficiency wood-burning units in the 150,000 residences” is a good one – this government policy driven and supported effort to have housing heated by baseboard electric heating has been a serious problem and we need to aggressively tackle it. And the short term economic activity from converting the 150,000 homes would be substantial.

As for where I stand, you can read the 2,500+ blog entries and close to 4,000 pages of original content in the past four years (come to think of it, you can read almost as much content from those in opposition to my ideas as well).

I am tired of watching friends and family going down the road without much of a choice in the matter.

I want New Brunswick to have an economic foundation that is attracting people not repelling them. I would like, just once in my lifetime, for New Brunswick to lead Canada (or be among the leaders) in economic activity and job creation over an extended period of time.

I want us to understand the importance of national and international business investment to economic growth. For so long we have tried to prop up the economy with essentially government and local business investment. The only international investment we see here is for the occasional mine or mill and for local retail and services. Something like 90% of the non oil & gas FDI comes into Canada and lands in the Toronto/Montreal corridor and I have never heard a federal politician even mention that in passing.

In fact, many are of the persuasion that FDI is a bad thing for a place like New Brunswick and decry the evils of multinational firms. I dislike this position deeply. BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, Seimens, Nestle – on and on – have made hundreds of billions worth of FDI into the southern U.S. and are revitalizing those economies. They pay far higher wages and benefits and offer good working conditions and career mobility. None here. We get a beer plant – mostly for local consumption.

We spend tens of millions to promote French in New Brunswick and then the few international French companies that come to the Maritimes go to Nova Scotia (Michelin, Composites Atlantic, etc.). That’s a little off topic but it is a bugaboo that we don’t use our one distinct attribute in our economic develpoment efforts.

Mr. Moir. Soldier on and thanks for contributing to the discussion.

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0 Responses to Rob Moir puts forward interesting ideas

  1. mikel says:

    For forestry, while there will always be a need for pulp and paper, there is NOT ‘high value’ on kraft paper, which was the main product for years. Mills finally switched to glossy paper thanks to massive subsidies by taxpayers, who got nothing out of it. But technology in forestry is extensive, so even glossy paper is not going to be ‘value added’ for long. NB is small and temperate, so it just CAN”T happen.

    Also, we don’t know how much MORE money is put into the pulp mills each year, the NB government is VERY secretive about the various means at its disposal to ‘help out’ mills. So there may be even less value than the numbers indicate.

    Plus, there is only a tiny minority of workers, so economically the argument comes down to whether its better to have MORE lower paying jobs or fewer higher ones. Keep in mind that there is no definitive reason why wages in the ‘new’ economy in forestry need be kept low.

    However, Mr. Moir’s point was not to CLOSE pulp mills, but to force them to purchase NB wood first, and stop the export of raw logs. That puts more money into the economy.

    As for foreign direct investment, it may be true that Mr. Moir’s main priority may not be running to Ottawa and talking about how to get an auto manufacturer to NB (although it isn’t the other parties either). The question is whether the NDP’s OTHER policies is more likely to help or hurt that cause.

    So in the case of the Sussex natural gas field, we can wonder aloud whether some small or new auto manufacturer might not look at the option of benefitting from Sussex’s local gas in its production line. That would spare it from NB Power’s higher prices, it would be one more ‘policy’ that would make NB more attractive to FDI. In other words, both your and the NDP’s line on this is identical.

    However, once again, the gas is privately owned, so there may be a reason why the incumbent simply lied. There may be no WAY to keep that gas in Sussex.

  2. Rob says:

    “However, Mr. Moir’s point was not to CLOSE pulp mills, but to force them to purchase NB wood first, and stop the export of raw logs. That puts more money into the economy. “

    If companies can do it cheaper elsewhere, why would they produce the pulp for higher prices here? We can’t force companies to produce pulp at a loss.

    As for the gas field, in Medicine Hat, the Goodyear Tire Plant was built based on exclusive access to a gas well. The plant received very inexpensive energy from a municipally owned well.

  3. mikel says:

    Exactly my point, they ARE producing it at a loss, or pretty close to it, only subsidies and low taxes are enabling them to operate-the ones that couldn’t get enough subsidies left.

    That’s MY point though, not Mr. Moir’s. As for Medicine Hat, its a perfect example of what David has been talking about, unfortunately, that city (one of the only ones to own its own utility outright) stretches back to 1904. It precedes NAFTA, so isn’t really applicable. Just like Manitoba and Saskatchewan both have provincial public insurance, but its widely accepted that any province attempting to try to do that now would face lawsuits under NAFTA.

    You can’t ‘force’ the utility to sell gas locally any more than you can ‘force’ a pulp mill to sell at a loss. From the getgo the driller was targeting the US market.

    It’s a very complex issue, as the study has pointed out. Unlike Sable, its all provincial jurisdiction-not federal, so there is little a federal MP can do.

    Even in Guysborough, which has had an industry subsidy by giving a holiday on MNP royalties, it has not had any industrial interest. So its a hard sell at the outset, that of course is the ‘real world’, however, that is no reason not to TRY to do something, and at least Mr. Moir is talking about it. It’s becoming painfully clear than simply letting ‘the market’ manage resources and do whatever they want is a recipe for disaster. The province IS operating in the ‘real world’, but like I said elsewhere, the real world is also full of people saying they aren’t going to simply be pawns of the market anymore.

    To do that you have to do like Venezuela and actually get control of the resource. So in that regard it would be interesting to hear Mr. Moir explain what exactly he would do, or COULD do, to get a Sussex industrial park fed with its local natural gas.

    If he isn’t still around, the enterprise report does state that several municipalities have used federal infrastructure funds for this purpose-again, that is money that the province has been using for highways and now harbour cleanup.

    One suggestion would also be to get legislation from the province to enable and fund small co operative enterprises which could then stake out and OWN the resource. Lawsuits would have to prove that such companies were simply the government in other guise, however, nowadays with so many corporations getting so much money from governments, that can be said of ANY corporation. A perfect example of this would be the Toronto cold water cooling project that was mentioned before.

  4. Rob Moir says:

    Hi David;

    Thanks to you for your reply.

    I hope, one day, that as an MP we can sit down as a group – people like yourself, Enterprise Fundy, and creative environmentalists – and have a great planning session. We live in a province where divide-and-conquer has been used as an effective strategy for far too long.

    Keep up the good work you are doing for New Brunswick.