Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Some Budget Critics Can't Get Their Stories Straight


You hear that sound? That's the sound of someone's writing style hitting rock bottom.

Perhaps I'm being harsh though, I disagree completely with his point of view. But that's not unusual, you have to deal with people everyday who you don't agree with. What I can't stand, however, is when someone's logic is internally inconsistent.

For example, he attacks the budget for giving money to AECL to finish repairs to Chalk River (to allow the resumption of radioisotope production) and finish refurbishment of the Point Lepreau reactor. Perhaps I can understand his disagreement with the fulfillment of legally binding contracts (with New Brunswick) and his dislike for the resumption of production of medical isotopes. He mocks the 'investment' that the federal government is making and says we won't see much of that money coming back.

Fair enough. I can understand if you feel that we as a country should neglect our health care and violate contracts because you feel its a poor investment.

But he then loudly whines about how the government is not renewing the 1 cent per kwh subsidy to 'renewable' energies that cost the government $1.5 billion. That was money literally thrown out the door that you'll never see again and will never be returning to the government coffers. Money that was being spent on windmills that only produce electricity 30% of the time on average at best at prices that are twice the current rates.

Is that a better 'investment'?

If you're looking at the money given out as an investment, then putting the money into AECL is the better bet of the two options. How many people buy run down homes, spend money to refurbish them and then sell them? Is it a poor investment? Maybe. But is it better to take that money and burn it and have no hope of ever seeing it again?

From a jobs perspective, he talks about the jobs that were created in the wind industry, but doesn't mention a thing about the jobs created by nuclear refurbishment projects.

If jobs are what matters, then lets compare how many jobs were created by that $1.5 billion subsidy and the money invested keeping AECL afloat. If AECL were to go bankrupt tomorrow how many people would lose their jobs? Hospitals would fire a lot of their technicians who deal with radioisotopes (and they already have) to deal with the reduced supply. Point Lepreau and Bruce Power refurbishments would halt and thousands of tradespeople and engineers would be thrown out of work almost instantly while the owners try to figure out a way to complete the refurbishment without AECL (good luck with that!). Sure maybe after some bankruptcy battle something could be worked out and work could resume, but in the meantime, those thousands of people are out of work. The thousands of jobs who depend on serving those people are out of work too. MDS Nordion, bereft of its biggest potential supplier of isotopes would probably go under, and all their jobs would disappear. No isotopes means no revenue means no jobs.

I disagree with Hamilton on plenty of policy issues that he talks about in his article. I could talk about how wind power costs three times that of nuclear power. Or how the subsidy was pointless and useless in the first place. But its impossible to have policy discussions with someone when their position is internally inconsistent. It means that the person is insistent on a specific policy regardless of the facts.

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