Interview With Former Green Party Leader Jim Harris

Interview with Jim Harris 

 

Based on your prior experience with the Green Party what advice would you give to young voters? 

The biggest challenge that we have is…well did you know that more people during the election don’t vote than vote for the winning party. When people say “ohhh you can’t vote for this party or that party”, what they are really saying is that you can’t vote for what you believe inthen people worry because voter turnout is declining. The most important thing is engaging people in politics and in voting. 

 

With renewable energy specifically is there an issue, or perhaps more than one issue, that you would put at the forefront of discussions for our members? 

Electoral reform. 

 

Do you have thoughts you could share on ranked ballot voting or first past the post, or other issues related? 

On ranked ballot I favor ranked ballots for electing a single office like the mayor, but not for electing MP’s or MPP’s or MA’s or City Councilors because there you can use more proportional system which will work better. 

In this election I have launched something called vote swapping (voteswapping.ca) 

 

What would you tell someone who wants to make the world a better place through environmental awareness? Is there any advice you would give them? 

Yes, I was listening to David Suzuki talk one time and he was citing an example about scientists who get grants to study sand pile information. So in these studies they will take sand and drop it one grain at a time and keep dropping until, at some point in time, it creates an avalanche. They can never tell which grain of sand will cause the final avalanche, all they can predict is the ratio of small landslides to large ones (there are 5 small landslides to every large one). Even though they repeat this experiment over and over, they can never predict which will be the last grain of sand to cause a huge avalanche. This is important for several reasons; you can ask for example “was it this last grain of sand that caused the avalanche?” The answer is yes and no. Yes it was the last one (the straw that broke the camel’s back), but no it required every other grain that proceeded it to create the final conditions for the last grain to have that impact. There are people, like Rosa Parks, a black Woman who refused to move seats from a white only section on a bus in the US and this one little incident was the flash point to cause a revolution. People can’t see these changes coming. 

In hindsight we say these things were self-evident. Often people will work at something and don’t see the level of change they expect; don’t be frustrated. This shift is going to happen and it is going to be profound. And you won’t have seen it coming. What you are doing now is absolutely essential to create the necessary conditions for the final change to occur. 

 

How significant is the Ontario Cap and Trade Plan in terms of the signal of this policy as well as its potential environmental benefits? 

The most important thing is to put a price on carbon. Once you have a price on carbon the market changes. Otherwise you are saying pollution is free, pollute as much as you want. As soon as businesses need to pay to pollute, business optimizes this as an expense and reduces pollution. With Cap and Trade there cannot be grants or grandfathering of credits to certain industries otherwise it floods the market and makes trading worthless. We have seen experience in Europe where polluting industries were given far too many credits and grandfathering and as a result even profited from the mechanism as well as drove it into the ground. I personally favor a carbon tax because you cannot as easily game the system; it is a cleaner and easier to implement mechanism. 

 

Similar to BC? 

Yeah and in BC the data shows that the impact at the pump is negligible. Fuel use declined 16% and the economy grew more than the rest of Canada on average. The good news is that in 2014 globally, for the first time ever, carbon emissions did not increase but the global GPD grew. This clearly shows that these things are not coupled. This is contrary to what Harper says all the time; iyou decrease your emissions, it does not mean you cannot have economic growth. 

 

What role do you see for solar? 

Solar creates way more jobs than tar sands. In fact tar sands have been a net job loser by the thousands. Renewables now employs more people in Canada than oil & gas. sur ce site

 

Alberta recently just reversed 44 years of a conservative government, perhaps the province needed some serious change, what is the lesson from Alberta and what do you think the likely outcome of this fork in the road is? 

When you look at the royalties Alberta collects on its tar sands relative to what Norway collects (Norway collects on gross revenue vs. Alberta which collects on the profits). There are a lot of ways to game “profits” in order to manage royalties. When you compare to Norway they make 3.5x as much per barrel on royalties as Alberta does. Alberta has one of the lowest royalty rates when you adjust for the risk of the government. So why is Alberta charging the lowest risk adjusted royalty in the world? 

 

What are some very attainable things ordinary people can do to improve their impact? 

Let’s talk about LED lighting. I just went out this weekend and bought some LED lights which have reached a point where they are incredibly attractive. These bulbs currently have a $5 coupon and work out to a price of $4 each. I switched out 50 compact fluorescent bulbs this past weekend (which have mercury in them and if they break you have a problem). If I compare these LED’s to incandescent each bulbs, each one will last 20 years and saves $136 over its lifetime. You can buy 50 LED bulbs at a total cost of $200 which will save you $7,000 over their lifetime plus you don’t need to purchase additional lightbulbs. Incandescent bulbs only last 1,000 – 2,000 hours as opposed to 20,000 – 50,000. Only on the electricity the savings are about $7,000, where else can you spend $200 and get a savings like that?