Dion can lead on energy

There was a big difference between the Saint John and Moncton municipal elections. Saint John voters were not happy and it showed in the polls. The people voted for change of style and substance. Can Ivan Court, as the new broom, sweep clean? Does he have the vision and backbone to accomplish his daunting tasks? As an optimist, I’d like to believe so. However, we have been disappointed too often in the past, with Shawn Graham being the latest example.

Dieppe voters also threw out the old mayor, whom some considered as arbitrary with overspending tendencies. The new mayor is Jean Leblanc, a local businessman, with an interest in public service. He promises open government with past secret contracts being brought to light if legally possible. It will be interesting to follow the paths of the new mayors of Dieppe and Saint John who have similar intentions.

In Moncton, there was no great dissatisfaction with city government other than the normal concerns with property taxes levels. In my case, running for councillor at large with two well-known and respected incumbents was near suicide. Readers of this column were familiar with my message that I brought to the citizens of Moncton: our economy is based on an energy supply that is starting to decline and that has serious consequences. The law of supply and demand indicates very high prices and economic disruption. Our municipal governments need to educate and lead citizens through the coming difficult times.

I was delighted to received 4100 votes and am greatly appreciative of that confidence. Unfortunately, the incumbents received more votes, so I now have more time to write this column, which I enjoy greatly. It is easy to make mistakes in a campaign, as Obama or Hillary would tell you. My mistakes, and there were a few, were part of the learning process. The part that I enjoyed the most was “mainstreeting”, talking to people about my vision and how we could change the future.

Near the end of the campaign, the Times and Transcript indicated their choices of who they thought should win. On the Saturday before the election, they published a picture of each candidate with checkmarks on their favourites. So much for a level playing field from the print media.

But I have been ignoring the energy file while on the campaign trail. Oil has risen to $126 per barrel. Goldman Sachs predicts $200 by the end of the year. So does OPEC. The American government is again pressuring the Saudis to open the tap and if they could, they probably would. The Saudis have been spending large sums recently to try to build spare capacity and combat depletion. The average price at the pumps in the US is $3.70 per US gallon. At 3.7 liters per gallon, that’s only $1 per liter. Canadians would be happy with that price.

We had a remarkable statement from Stephane Dion on “peak oil” this week. “The peak oil era is happening and we need to prepare our country to win in this economy… We need a strategy in the coming years that will make us less dependent on fossil fuels,” according to a CTV news report on his speech.

The Liberal leader has finally found a major issue where Stephen Harper is vulnerable. People vote with their pocketbook and the rising price of gas has the population steaming and looking for answers. The PM’s insistence that Canada (really Alberta) is an energy superpower is at odds with the facts. Our conventional resources are declining and that low quality resource called the tar sands, have a dubious future from an environmental and net energy point of view.

Here in New Brunswick, the price of gas and diesel just went up 5 and 9 cents per liter respectively. If you’ve been watching the “energy policy” of the Graham government, it consists basically of the energy hub – supporting construction of a new refinery and a second Lepreau to be in service by 2016. Is this a job strategy or an energy policy?

Does Minister of Energy Jack Keir still believe that “peak oil” is a long way off and that we will adjust to it without any problems? If so, he’s more of an optimistic than most. Perhaps Stephane Dion should give him a call and the two Liberals can get on the same page.

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