Statement on Proposed Enerdu Power Plant Expansion in Almonte

A proposal has been made to replace the existing 300 kW Enerdu run-of-river power station in the Mill on the Mississippi River in the middle of Almonte with a new station producing three times the power.  Construction of this new facility will require removal of over one thousand cubic metres of limestone bedrock, including some of the existing falls.  It will also replace the existing weir with a much larger dam structure designed to optimise water flow for power generation.  Both these changes will affect the character of downtown Almonte.  Access to the waterfront at the power station would be restricted.

The new, larger weir may accelerate the die-back of the Appleton Wetlands (which is designated provincially-significant) upstream of Almonte, which has been partially attributed to manipulation of the water levels by increasing the height of the ‘flashboards’ atop the existing weir several years ago.  This affects the 9 km long “Reach 18″, upstream to the village of Appleton (see figure), which in effect becomes a reservoir for the Enerdu station.  The Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority has requested that the Ministry of Natural Resources perform further study and amend the allowable water limits accordingly.

Reach 18 of the Mississippi River upstream of Almonte (A) to Appleton (B) [Google Maps]

Reach 18 of the Mississippi River upstream of Almonte (A) to Appleton (B) [Google Maps]

Continued frequent changes in water flow and level may cause erosion of the river bank and affect the river, river-side, recreational users and property owners along “Reach 18″of the Mississippi as well as those downstream.  The Town of Mississippi Mills has requested that the Ministry of the Environment perform a comprehensive Environmental Assessment to supplement the self-assessment made on behalf of Enerdu.

The community opposition to this power station, spearheaded by the Mississippi RiverWatchers, cannot be accused of NIMBY-ism for Almonte already has the 4600 kW run-of-river Gallagher power station just 240m downstream of the Enerdu station.  The Gallagher station re-opened in 2010 after a major upgrade.

Finally, the Enerdu proposal does not actually seem to be a true run-of-river power station.  There is evidence that the existing station is already being operated in a fashion designed to maximise power output by stopping and starting the power station to take advantage of peak market electricity rates.  The selection of the new Obermeyer weir design seems intended to continue this practice with the replacement station.  The community also has concerns about noise levels as well as increased flood risk due to the narrowing of the river channel by the new power station located on the river bed.

 We, the Carleton-Mississippi Mills Green Party Executive therefore call on:

  1. The Ministry of Natural Resources to act on the request made in November 2012 by the Mississippi RiverKeepers and the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority to review the allowable water levels on Reach 18 per the Mississippi River Water Management Plan in light of the die-back in the Appleton Wetland;
  2. The Ministry of the Environment to act on the request made by the Corporation of the Town of Mississippi Mills for a Part II Order Request for a more comprehensive analysis of the project; and
  3. Enerdu to be more forthcoming and transparent in answering questions from concerned parties about how this power station will be operated and how it will affect the community.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma of Electoral Reform

There are many reasons to fear electoral cooperation.  Adam ably questions the assumptions being made about the electoral math.   I for one fear the campaign itself.  You do not need to have been following Canadian federal politics very closely to realise that such cooperation will be attacked vociferously by the CPC machine as anti-democratic.  The last attempt at coalition between the Liberals and NDP in December 2008 was attacked as just such a demon, even though it would have resulted in a group of like-minded MPs representing a larger fraction of the voters who elected them than the governing CPC (in Federal Election of Oct 2008, the CPC earned 38% of the vote versus a combined 45% by the LPC and NDP).

The CPC machine would welcome a new agreement, as it would give them unlimited opportunity to attack the other parties for denying voters choice, without having to discuss other annoying issues like, say, eviscerated environmental laws, muzzled scientists, weakened inspection and auditing, F-35, the Swiss cheese masquerading as our tax system, the concentration of power in the PMO, … and that’s before getting to inaction on climate change!

But let’s back up a step and look at why electoral cooperation is being proposed.  The faults of our First-Past-The Post system are well known:

  1. First and foremost, it frequently delivers a false majority; i.e. a majority of the seats despite a minority of the votes.  The current government won 54% of the seats with less than 40% of the votes (cast by fewer than 25% of eligible voters!).  In fact Canada has only had one true majority in the last 50 years (the Mulroney landslide of 1984).
  2. Second, for a small party like ours with thinly spread support, votes do not translate into seats.  Our 4% of the vote in 2011 should have garnered a dozen seats; imagine the House with a dozen Elizabeth May’s holding the government to account; with a Green MP watching every committee.

Many have talked about electoral reform in the past, but somehow what seems like a good idea in opposition pales once a party grasps the reins of power.  As long as the Liberals and Conservatives trade sides of the House every two or three elections, both are happy enough to shut everyone else out. But now, after seven years of Harper government with no signs of party consolidation on the ‘Left’, it looks like things might have permanently changed, especially as the CPC continues to tilt our democracy in its favour.  What then, can be done?

If you accept that the long-term solution is electoral reform, then we have to put it on the political agenda not just as one more election issue but as the election issue – a referendum on our current electoral system.  That is why Elizabeth May (among others, including Joyce Murray) is proposing one-time cooperation with a single goal.  Let’s set aside all the other issues on which we will never agree (if we could, the ‘Left’ would have merged and we wouldn’t be having this discussion) and – like smart prisoners – cooperate.

Then what?  The coalition parties are on the horns of a dilemma: if they can agree on a particular voting system (and there are many different systems already in use around the world), they then have to sell it to the voters.  Given the difficulties faced in the three provincial referenda to date (BC, ON & PEI), that seems unlikely.  A better approach might be for the coalition to agree on a mechanism to start down the path to change (say, everybody’s ‘favourite’, a Royal Commission or better yet a Citizens’ Assembly).

And then come out swinging, with a simple effective explanation to voters as to why this matters and how it would work.  Not only is it necessary to explain to voters why electoral reform is required, but also that this is a one-time alliance.  That is, that such a coalition is asking the voters to hold their noses and select the local candidate most likely to enact electoral reform on the understanding – nay, commitment – that they will stay just long enough to fix the electoral system, and then call an election under the new rules.  This also presumes that so-called progressive voters are on the ABC bandwagon – and would still turn out to vote given only one choice.  It is enforced strategic voting – but with an actual mandate.

It might even bring some non-voters out to the booths – those that are disheartened by the current disgrace on the Hill or who assume that their vote can’t change anything.  An election on electoral reform means this vote – and every future vote – will matter.  Proportional representation makes your vote worth more and do more.  It’s used all over the world: the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Australian states.  So it’s worth pursuing to make Canada better.

If we miss this opportunity to cooperate, who knows when it will arise again?  If the CPC machine wins again in 2015 – and at this juncture who would bet against it, Justin Trudeau not withstanding – then the next election will be in 2020.  Of course by then the Arctic might have completely melted and a “Green surge” may sweep us into power a là the “Orange crush” – but that is not a strategy.

Electoral Cooperation sounds great… except for the part where I don’t get a choice

As a longtime Green, I’ve been following the Liberal leadership pretty closely.  Obviously environmental issues are important to me, but so are issues of good governance, fiscal responsibility and strong social programs. I also see typically Conservative values like smaller government and fiscal restraint as core Green values. Having said this, I think arguably Greens are still at their core an environmental party. As such, many Greens are on the “ABC” bandwagon – Anything But Conservative. The Liberals are the only party likely to defeat The Conservatives, as such it stands to reason that in the wake of particularly brutal Conservative attacks on the environment, Greens may suffer some losses to an invigorated Liberal party. A recent informal poll bears this out, indicating that an astounding 35% of Greens would vote for Justin Trudeau if he were leader of The Liberal Party.

Another issue that has become front and center in this race is electoral cooperation. Prominent Greens, NGO’s and celebrities have all been touting this idea and throwing their support behind Joyce Murray – a competent if underwhelming candidate who is now surging in this wave of ideological cooperation glee. Hey – after all, it worked for the Conservatives, right? While “Uniting the Left” and restoring all that is right and good in the world is an attractive idea, something just does not feel right to me.

One of the biggest simultaneous strengths and weaknesses of left-leaning social liberals is their faith in humanity, and by extension, human nature.  “The Left” is a very large disparate group made up of a lot of different ideas. There is no greater enemy of truth than idealism. But let’s face it, most of us are idealists, and will not give up our party affiliations that easily -  no matter how rational the arguments.

Another recent poll bears out that while many may be amenable to some form of cooperation, many are not. If the parties on the left decide that they will merge, not compete or cooperate in some way, broad consensus on this decision is simply not practical. This begs the question, if you have your traditional choice taken away from you and you are left with either a coalition you didn’t ask for or voting for a party whose ideals you disagree with, what choice will you make? I suspect many will simply stay home. When you add in the folks that stay home, some interesting things happen. I did some quick analysis based on the aforementioned polls, so let’s have a look at the numbers.  First, I made a few assumptions:

  1. If a given percentage said they were for a certain co-operation, I assumed those who did not indicate approval would not vote for a cooperation party.
  2. For argument’s sake I assumed 1/3 of disaffected “leftists” would defect to “The Right”, and a proportionate number of right-leaning voters would move left.
  3. I assumed the balance would stay home.

Figure 1 is the 2011 Canadian Election Results. As we know, The Conservatives won a majority with less than 40% of the vote. When you factor in non-voters, it’s less than 25% of the vote.  Clearly, not voting is bad for democracy. Many do not vote because they feel the current system does not represent them.


Liberal Candidate Joyce Murray, as well as many high-profile NGO’s, Greens and celebrities have been talking co-operation. In Figure 2, we see what I assume they must imagine co-operation looks like.  Murray isn’t talking much about working with The Greens, and would arguably roll The Liberals into The NDP. As such, I sent 35% of Greens over to the New-Democratic Liberals.

This makes a couple of dangerous assumptions. The first, in the case of backing Murray as Liberal leader, is the assumption that she can actually win against Harper! Consider what happened the last two times Liberals chose candidates strong on policy for lack of a candidate with popular appeal. The second assumption is that a merger will not alienate large swaths of their traditional base.  Nobody likes being told what to do. Here’s what I suspect that would really look like:

Man, Figure 3 looks pretty grim, if you were betting the farm on co-operation to kick The Conservatives out of office. Here we end up with an even stronger Conservative majority with even less voter engagement, and a democracy that is even sicker than it was to begin with. What this data tells me is that The Left does not lose because The Right Wins, they lose because too many have stopped caring!

I’m not going to make predictions on how the next election will turn out. I do know this: The NDP is the strongest they have ever been, The Greens are making surprising inroads in Ontario, BC and even in Calgary Center. Recent polls put a Trudeau Liberal Party in Majority territory. So, what is the left doing wrong? One thing is for certain, taking choice away, regardless of how altruistic the motives, is never a good option. The Conservatives thrive on voter apathy and a proposed merger is a recipe to hand it to them on a platter.

Many on what would be considered “the left” tend to think that sensible policies and goodwill will ultimately win the day. Regrettably, in reality it boils down to what Trudeau retorted when Marc Garneau accused him of being weak on policy: “It’s about being able to win”. Winning elections has never been about policy, it’s about capturing the imagination of the electorate. The Conservatives do it with fear, but the most powerful way to do it is with vision. The “left split” is simply a cop-out for a failure to deliver vision. Unless we start seeing the trees for the forest, we will remain lost in the wilderness.

So, what do we do? Well, to leverage the over-quoted leftist Gandhi mantra, we must “be the change”. There is still a 40% piece of electoral pie up for grabs. If the left wants to win, we need to sell our vision to the disenfranchised. They are tired of rhetoric and division, so let’s be different by actually being different. We can still cooperate by sharing ideas and stopping the partisan rhetoric – by doing politics differently. If the left is not winning, it’s because we need to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work, fight and win the ground war. We need sell the vision of a better world – that is how to restore and preserve all that is right with the world.

My views are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CMM Greens or the Green Party. Visit for more.

Results of the Nov 26 By-Elections

The three by-elections are behind us, but the results were interesting, and worth reflecting on.  Despite the dreams of many, all three went to the incumbent party.  But let’s look further:

  • Victoria was the tightest race.  It was taken by the NDP with 37% of the vote.  But the Green Party was a close second, with 34% of the vote.  The Conservatives and Liberals were well behind, albeit with similar fractions of the vote (15 & 13% respectively).
  • Calgary Centre was taken by the Conservatives with 37% of the vote.  The Liberals followed closely with 33%, while the Greens took a very respectable 26%.  The NDP were well back with just 4%.
  • Durham was also taken by the Conservatives, but with 51% of the vote, making it the only outright majority of the night: every second voter in Durham chose Conservative.  The NDP took a respectable 26% while the Liberals took 17%.  The Greens trailed with just 4%.

So, three ridings, and three quite different results, which is to be expected.  Do the results indicate anything further?  By-elections are traditionally seen as the place to lodge a protest vote and to be more sensitive to local issues that usually get drowned out in a general election.  But by averaging the results, perhaps we can learn something more.  The average vote across the three ridings looks like this:

ByElection Piechart small

So the NDP, Greens and Liberals were neck-and-neck, each with one-fifth of the vote.  For Greens, this marked a significant improvement from the 2011 general election, proving that there is widespread potential.   The results also reinvigorated the notion that the non-Conservative vote is split, leading for calls to unite the parties.  But that is a subject for another post.

Source: Results from “Elections Canada” website,

The Most Exciting… By-Election?

Today Canadians are going to the polls in three by-elections. Usually, by-elections go by without too much notice from Canadians, but this one is different – largely because of the horse race that is shaping up, in of all places, the Conservative stronghold Calgary Center. The riding has been Conservative since it’s creation in 1968.

The race in Calgary Center is particularly exciting for Greens, because the tight three-way race involves a Green candidate. On the heels of Elizabeth May being honored as Parliamentarian of The Year, Green candidates have a greater prominence than ever before. It is indeed an exciting time to be a Green!

Greens are fielding three strong candidates in three ridings:

Greens need your help to get out the vote! If you can spare an hour to call supporters in one of the three ridings, please contact us. You could win a chance to win a dinner with Elizabeth May for your trouble! Here’s to seeing more Green MP’s in Ottawa!


In Memoriam – Jim McKenzie

Our world is a little bit poorer after the passing of a man who cared so much about it.

Jim McKenzie (Kenneth James McKenzie, PhD, but he didn’t stand on ceremony) died on November 6th, 2012. He had been a pillar of the Carleton—Mississippi Mills Greens for many years, but his influence was much broader. He was known and respected by Greens across the province in the Green Party of Ontario and indeed across the country in the Green Party of Canada. When Jim spoke—quietly—people listened, because he was a man worth listening to.

“Quiet” described Jim in many ways. He was quiet in speech, but his words were the product of a razor-sharp mind. He had a quiet sense of humour; not for him the belly laugh, but instead a dry, ironic wit that could look at a very troubled planet and still see the lighter side of it. He had a quiet approach to getting the job done: the first-rate thinker was also a doer, whether he was running an election campaign or writing yet another letter to a local paper.

This sensitive, thoughtful attitude also made him a builder of bridges. He was simultaneously on Green Party and Carleton Landowners Association executives, and both felt fortunate to have the benefit of his views and advice. In a world that’s more than a little bit crazy, Jim was the sane man.

Jim leaves behind a hole, but also a vision of how we should guide our own behaviours. If we could all conduct ourselves just a little bit more like Jim, the world would be not poorer but richer. – John Hogg, 2011 CMM GPC Candidate, Riding Association President

CMM GPA Elects New Executive

The CMM Riding Association 2012 AGM was well-attended last night, with a new executive committee for 2012 – 2013 voted in.

The meeting was followed by lively discussion at The Royal Oak on March Rd. Previous Federal CEO & Federal candidate John Hogg remained on as Federal CEO, and Provincially, longtime executive member Murray stepped down as GPO President, being succeeded by Ron Servant. Ron is a longtime CMM Green Party member, who has served in various positions on the executive for many years. Following the AGM, incoming GPO Pressident Ron Servant stated: “Green Party values are my values, they are Canadian values. I am honoured to have been chosen to serve as President of the CMM GPO Riding Association.

Stepping down as GPO Treasurer, Jim McKenzie was succeeded by Jason Scott. Carol Johnston will be continuing her impeccable work on as Fedeal CFO. A longtime, dedicated CMM Green member Carl Bovell will be leveraging his significant experience and connections in CMM as Membership Chair. Staying on as Communications and Policy Chairs are Adam Caldwell & Louise St Germain, and Gordon Henderson as Member at Large.

We would like to welcome our newest member to the executive as Member at Large, Mark Small.  We would like to sincerely thank all who have dedicated their time and energy to promoting Green politics in CMM by volunteering for the Executive.

We would like to pass on special thanks to Murray Reeves and Jim McKenzie for their years of dedication in various central roles on the CMM exeutive, Jim and Murray both played pivotal roles on keeping the CMM Green Party strong, and one of the most successful Green riding associations in the country. We intend to build on that success and continue to provide a strong voice for Greens in CMM!