The dumbest of 2017: Anti-GMO activists, green-power disciples and Canada's $400-million political correctness fund
For my first column of the new year, I’ve dipped into my collection of irrational, damaging or downright dumb happenings in 2017.
The year saw major breakthroughs in the use of genetically modified human cells to treat diseases including retinal dystrophy and blood cancer. Human genetic re-engineering is an emerging science, but there has been little public concern.
By contrast, baseless fear-mongering by anti-genetically modified plant activists has turned “GMO” food into a public pariah. In reality, genetically modified foods, such as Canadian canola oil, have been consumed by humans for more than two decades without a single substantiated case of harm. How can it be that people are OK with GMOs being injected directly into our bodies, while eating plants derived from the same technology is feared?
Environmentalists escalated their campaigns to end British Columbia’s important salmon farming industry. Yet virtually all credible scientists, including those with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, have found no evidence that fish farms harm wild salmon. Even though 70 per cent of salmon consumption comes from farms, the wild population remains under pressure from overfishing. Removing farmed salmon supplies would increase that pressure dramatically.
Environmentalists, Indigenous tribes and Quebec politicians united to kill TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline project that would have moved Canadian oil to eastern refineries and international markets. Instead, foreign-flagged tankers continue to make their way up the St. Lawrence and billions of Canadian dollars continue to flow to countries with appalling environmental and human rights records. Meanwhile, economically beleaguered Alberta continues to help fund Quebec’s annual $10-billion equalization grant.
After Prime Minster Justin Trudeau tells Albertans that the fossil-fuel industry must be “phased out,” a 2017 International Energy Agency report predicts daily global oil demand will increase by 10 million barrels to 104 million barrels by 2040. Meanwhile, Canada pursues unilateral decarbonization, an ideologically driven form of economic hari-kari that hands the market for our most economically important industry to others. Ironically, the biggest “other” is the United States, which is expected to supply a substantial portion of global demand growth despite possessing smaller oil reserves than Canada.
A Fraser Institute report finds that federal, provincial and municipal government employees earn an average 11 per cent more in wages than comparable private sector workers whose taxes pay the cost. On top of that, public sector workers enjoy much more generous pension and retirement benefits.
Another Fraser Institute study finds the average Canadian family will pay over $35,000 in taxes in 2017, more than it spends on housing, food and clothing combined. Despite Canada’s escalating taxes, Trudeau is on track to increase the country’s national debt by more than any other prime minster, including those dealing with a world war or major economic recession.
Personal income tax rate increases lifted top combined federal/provincial rates to over 50 per cent in seven of 10 provinces, higher than other developed countries. While Canadian politicians tout advanced technological innovation as key to our country’s economic future, these tax escalations made Canada uncompetitive in attracting and retaining the best and brightest workers needed to accomplish that. Then, in the closing days of 2017, U.S. legislators passed a tax bill that further widened the rate gap for highly mobile skilled workers.
In response to challenges Canadian entrepreneurs have long faced in attracting Venture Capital investment, the federal government announced a new $400-million VC fund. Then came an announcement that seemed too farcical to be true. The struggling entrepreneurs that the plan is supposed to help will now have to demonstrate how their strategies will “advance the objective of achieving gender balance” in the Canadian startup scene. Hence, VC allocations were transformed from supporting the highest potential ideas to a $400-million political correctness fund.
The final weeks of 2017 saw dangerously cold weather in much of Canada and the U.S. I can’t help but wonder what all those who advocate replacing fossil fuels with wind and solar are thinking as tens of millions suffer through the deep freeze with only fossil fuels keeping them safe and warm. It’s time for those green-power disciples to prove faith in their rhetoric. I propose that utilities offer customers the option of “no fossil fuels green power service.” It would be interesting to see how many of the loudest “phase out fossil fuel” set would subscribe.
Happy New Year!