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Nov. 19: Insanity? Opportunity – letters to the ROB editor

General Electric Canada CEO Elyse Allan, shown in a 2010 photo, says ‘carbon pricing will have a transformative impact on the rate at which we adopt new technology.’


Insanity? Opportunity

Re GE Canada CEO Backs Federal Carbon Plan (Nov. 12):

I was heartened by Elyse Allan's endorsement of carbon pricing as a way to make Canadian industries more, not less, competitive. This proves how forward-thinking industry leaders are embracing the "biggest opportunity of our age," as former Word Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern called our transition to a carbon-neutral economy.

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It's grating to read, in the same article, Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose describing the same measures as "complete insanity." Such irresponsible rhetoric promotes squandering that opportunity, leaving it to others to develop the technology that will help us transition safely into the next century. Boris Worm, Halifax

Work was wealth

Re Trump Can't Stop Job Obsolescence (Nov. 12):

When I started teaching in 1966 in little Preston, Ont., I had a class of what was called the "terminal twos." These were young males who were being trained in motor mechanics and other trades. They would graduate after Grade 10 and were assured that they could get well-paying jobs with pensions and benefits.

At the beginning of the industrial revolution, and for more than a century, wealth was redistributed through work. The economy needed workers and the workers needed jobs to earn money. But not so much any more, as far as industry is concerned.

A basic annual income might be the solution, as fewer and fewer jobs can be found for blue-collar workers while robots and other technology take these jobs over. It's time to think of other ways to redistribute wealth, because rightly or wrongly, we have created a consumer society that all industry relies on. Katharine Elliott, Ottawa

Private costs more

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Re Doing Infrastructure Better (Oct. 29):

Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec chief executive officer Michael Sabia and Blackrock Inc. managing director Mark Wiseman say Canadian governments should outsource much planning and financing for major infrastructure to a public-private infrastructure bank. However, nowhere do they mention how much more private financing costs.

Public financing for a $100-million project at the current federal government 30-year bond rate of 1.9 per cent would add $31-million in interest costs over 30 years. Private financing at 7 per cent to 9 per cent (the rate Mr. Sabia stated elsewhere that private infrastructure investors expect) would add $161-million, five times the financing costs and doubling the total costs.

It's perfectly understandable why large investors are aggressively pushing Ottawa to establish an infrastructure bank: to boost their returns at the public's expense. But it would be extraordinarily foolish and irresponsible for any government to do so. Toby Sanger, senior economist, Canadian Union of Public Employees

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