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In Touch with MP Earl Dreeshen

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llegal Border Crossings

It was recently reported that 3,800 illegal border crossers have entered Canada since August 1. This is in addition to the 3,000 in July after Justin Trudeau misled the world by implying our borders were open to anyone, a statement he has yet to publicly correct.

The increasing number of illegal border crossings in Canada has resulted in misinformation amongst the general public. It is important for Conservatives to continue to remind Canadians and members of the media what the facts are.

One of the important things to remember is that it is illegal to enter Canada between official points of entry.

People who are intercepted by the RCMP or local law enforcement after crossing the border illegally are brought to the nearest CBSA port of entry or inland CBSA or IRCC office (whichever is closest), where an immigration officer will conduct an immigration examination, including considering whether detention is warranted. At this point, individuals undergo health and security screenings. These screenings include biographic and biometric checks (for example, fingerprinting).

Individuals whose claim is found not to be eligible will be issued a removal order and released on conditions to report for a future removal proceeding.

The fact of the matter is, despite Trudeau’s proclamation – Canada still has a process to follow and the integrity of our immigration system to be aware of. After having their expectations increased, the vast majority of these illegal border crossers will be deported, but only after draining resources intended for legitimate refugees and asylum seekers.

Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, signed between Canada and the United States (U.S.) in 2004, refugee claimants are required to seek protection in the first safe country in which they arrive, which includes the United States. No one is fleeing persecution in the United States.

Conservatives would have never made such an irresponsible proclamation, nor given these people false hope. Justin Trudeau has broken the system and it’s up to him to fix it. 

Sincerely your Member of Parliament,

Earl Dreeshen

Twitter: @earl_dreeshen

Facebook: Earl Dreeshen

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Economy

Former socialist economist explains why central planning never works

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From the Fraser Institute

By Matthew D. Mitchell

Central planning from the inside—an interview with a Soviet-era economist

In our descriptions of socialism in Poland and Estonia, we often quoted firsthand accounts of Poles and Estonians who lived through the period. These were workers, consumers, victims of oppression and resistance fighters. One voice that we didn’t capture was that of the planner—the government official charged with making the economy work, despite socialism’s enormous handicaps.

To better understand that perspective, I recently interviewed Gia Jandieri, an economist who worked for the State Supply Committee in Georgia from 1984 to 1989.

In 1989 Gia cofounded the very first non-governmental organization in Soviet Georgia (the Association of Young Economists) to push for market economic education. And in 2001 he established a think-tank, the New Economic School, to promote economic freedom. The New Economic School has been a full member of the Economic Freedom Network since 2004.

Here’s our discussion (lightly edited for readability):

Matthew Mitchell (MM):

How did you become an economist and a Soviet planner?

Gia Jandieri (GM):

It was accidental. In 1984 my mother worked at the Gossnab (the State Supply Committee for the Central Planning Authority) and she offered to introduce me to her boss. At that time I was only 23 years old and had graduated from the Georgian Polytechnical Institute. My knowledge of economics was mostly from life and family experience (my parents worked at a metallurgical plant).

But as a student in 1979 I had had what I thought were a few strange discussions with a teacher of political economy. Like most teachers, he was no true believer in socialism (it was hard for anyone to believe at that time). But he was required to teach the propaganda. What surprised me was that he was willing to publicly agree with me about my suspicions that the system was failing and might even collapse. This was rare, and he was taking a risk. But it also inspired me. It is also important to note that he wanted to hide his hesitation about Marxism and the Soviet system and he also wanted me to stop my questions, and/or stop attending his lectures (which was of course not allowed). I recall he told me: “either I report you or someone reports both of us for having prohibited discussions.”

When I finished my university study of engineering, I was already sure I wanted to be an economist. So, when the opportunity arose in 1984 to work at the State Supply Committee, I seized it.

MM:

Tell us a little bit about the job of a planner. What were your responsibilities? And how did you go about doing them?

GJ:

Our department inside of Gossnab was responsible for monitoring the execution of agreements for production of goods and government orders. My task was to verify that the plans had been executed correctly, to find failures and problems, and to report to the higher authorities.

This included reading lots of reports and visiting the factories and their warehouses for auditing.

The Soviet economy had been in a troublesome condition since the 1970s. We (at the Gossnab) had plenty of information about failures, but it wasn’t useful. We knew that the quality of produced goods was very low, that any household good that was of usable quality was in deficit, and that the shortages encouraged people to buy on the black market through bribes.

In reality, a bribe was a substitute for a market-determined price; people were interested in paying more than the official price for the goods they valued, and the bribe was a way for them to indicate that they valued it more than others.

The process of planning was long. The government had to study demand, find resources and production capacities, create long-run production and supply plans, compare these to political priorities, and get approval for general plans at the Communist Party meetings. Then the general plans needed to be converted to practical production and supply plans, with figures about resources, finances, material and labour, particular producers, particular suppliers, transportation capacities, etc. After this, we began the process of connecting factories and suppliers to one another, organizing transportation, arranging warehousing, and lining up retail shops.

The final stage of the planning process was to send the participating parties their own particular plans and supply contracts. These were obligatory government orders. Those who refused to follow them or failed to fulfill them properly were punished. The production factories had no right or resources to produce any other goods or services than those described in the supply contracts and production plans they received from the authorities. Funny enough, though, government officials could demand that they produce more goods than what was indicated in the plans.

MM:

What made your job difficult? Let’s assume that a socialist planner is 100 per cent committed to the cause; all he or she wants to do is serve the state and the people. What makes it difficult to do that?

GJ:

There were several difficulties. We had to find appropriate consumer data and compare it to the data of suppliers (of production goods mostly). I was working with several (5-15) factories per year. I needed to have current and immediate information, but the state companies were always trying to hide or falsify their reports. In some cases, waste and theft could be so significant that production had to be halted.

The planners invested vast sums of money and time in data collection and each had special units of data processing.

This was a technical exercise and had nothing to do with efficiency or usefulness. The collected data was outdated by the time it was printed. The planning, approval, and execution processes could take many years to complete, and by the time plans were ready, demand had usually changed, creating deficits of what was demanded and surpluses of what was not demanded. The planners, no matter how dedicated or intelligent they might be, simply couldn’t meet the demands of the customers.

Central planning was not an easy exercise. The central planners needed to understand what was needed—both production supplies and consumer goods. But, of course, we had no way of knowing what people truly wanted because there was no market. Consumers weren’t free to choose from different suppliers and new suppliers weren’t free to enter the market to offer new or slightly different goods.

One of the more helpful ways to find out what people wanted was to look at what consumers in the West wanted since they actually had economic freedom and their demands were quickly satisfied. The government also did a lot of industrial spying to steal Western production ways and technologies.

MM:

Were most of the planners you encountered 100 per cent committed to the cause? Were they incentivized to serve the cause?

GJ:

Some of the staffers were dedicated to their work. Others were mostly thinking about how they could obtain bribes from the production factories as a reward for closing their eyes to mismanagement and failure. The planners were also involved in more significant corruption to allow the production factories to have extra materials and financial resources so they could produce for the black market or so they could simply steal.

Then the revenue from these bribes would be divided among all personnel from different agencies (like the Price Committee, Auditing (“Public Control”), and several other agencies charged with inspections). So, in fact, the system generated corruption as a substitute for official incentives. If anything was still operating, this was mostly due to these corrupt incentives and not in spite of them.

The planning system was quite complex and involved many governmental offices though the main decisions were made by the Communist Party. Planning authorities would report to the Party leadership what they thought would be possible to produce and Party leaders would inevitably demand higher quantities.

Gosplan was bureaucratic to its core, both in principle and character. Nobody was allowed to innovate other than planned/artificial innovation. Everyone had to work only by decrees and orders coming from the political leadership. The political orders and bribes were the only engines that were moving anything. Market incentives didn’t exist. Bonuses (premia) were awarded according to bureaucratic rules, and, paradoxically, these destroyed the motivation of the genuinely hard workers.

MM:

Moving beyond economics a bit, how did the socialist system affect other aspects of life? Culture, families, relationships, civil institutions?

GJ:

One of the examples is Western pop-music. Soviet propaganda tried to hide Western culture. Music schools mostly taught Russian classical music and some folk music of various Soviet ethnic nationalities, but it was mostly Russian.

Jazz and hard rock were not prohibited but very much limited. That of course encouraged smuggling and illegal dissemination, as in every sector. Soviet music factories were buying some rights to the music (for instance the Beatles, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald). But these recordings were only available in limited quantities and were of bad quality in order to limit their influence.

Small illegal outfits would make unofficial and illegal copies of any popular western music (not classical).

Cultural institutions like theatre or cinema were harshly censored and mostly served the propaganda machine. The people involved in these sectors did what all producers of goods did. They needed to lobby their benefactors in the bureaucracy, bribing and currying favour with them in different ways. It was said that only one out of four films produced would be shown in the cinemas. The other three films were only produced so studios could steal the resources and obtain higher reimbursements.

Before Soviet rule, Georgia was a property rights and ethics-based society. We have ancient proverbs that testify to this. The Soviets killed the ethical leaders, the property-owning elite, and confiscated their property. The stolen property was supposed to be held in common. In fact, the bureaucracy took it.

State ownership of property opened the way to waste and theft of construction and production materials, office inventory, fertilizer, harvested agricultural products, etc.

In Georgia, one bright spot was underground education. Georgians succeeded in growing a network of informal tutors who effectively operated despite very harsh efforts by the authorities to quash them. These skillful teachers prepared the young people for university exams. This was so widespread that some successful young people (including my wife and friends, for instance) started offering private (completely illegal) teaching services when they were university students.

MM:

To this day, socialism remains alluring to many in the West, especially young people. What do you have to say to the 46 per cent of Canadians aged 18-34 who support socialism?

GJ:

Very simply, it is a mistake to think socialism fails because of the wrong managers. This mistake allows people to think that it’ll work the next time it is tried, if we just have better people. In fact the opposite is true—socialism invites the wrong managers. It doesn’t reward a great manager who tries to improve the system but a person who can adapt to and accept the corruption, waste and theft. Socialism also encourages corruption. When more resources are in the control of politicians and the bureaucracy, there is more favouritism, privilege, and discrimination. Jobs and business opportunities are based on privilege rather than market competition. This means naïve people will always be cheated by brazen liars and manipulators.

Poor people are told that the state is under their control but in fact the bureaucracy and political hierarchy control everything.

In socialism, nature and natural resources are abused and wasted. The Tragedy of the Commons runs rampant without private property, voluntary cooperation, and ethics. The government tries to manage everything centrally and totally fails because it lacks dynamic information, competitive discipline, and proper incentives.

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Energy

Reports of the Impending Death of Petroleum Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

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From EnergyNow.ca

By Jim Warren

There is a good chance climate activists smugly celebrating the collapse of conventional energy production within a generation are wildly mistaken. It is just as plausible that the time between today and ‘sunset’ for petroleum will run several decades beyond ‘net zero day’ in 2050. Actually, both predictions are suspect. History has shown people are rarely able to foresee conditions three or more decades into the future with any great precision.

Yet it seems sections of the investment community and the legacy news media assume our geopolitical future will be governed by the race to achieve net zero. They see the green transition as inevitable as death and taxes and presume oil will be sidelined accordingly.

A CBC news item that aired on March 16 boldly led with the prediction that the recently completed Trans Mountain pipeline is “likely the last new oil export pipeline the country will ever need.” The reporter was clearly caught up in a chicken and egg conundrum. He mused that due to declining production over the next decade we wouldn’t need any new pipelines. Here’s a thought, if increases in production do indeed taper off it will likely be because we can’t get enough pipelines built. Of course some CBC reporters and their fellow travellers in the climate alarmist camp never let logic get in the way of writing jubilant obituaries for the fossil fuel industries. One of the problems for conventional energy producers is that lots of people, including potential investors, have been drinking the same Kool-Aid as the media.

If the climate alarmists really have won the day, the window of opportunity is closing or has already closed on significant oil sands plant expansions, new pipelines to tidewater and any future boom in conventional oil production. After all, who wants to invest in infrastructure projects that will take a decade or more to be approved, could later be cancelled, or taxed into insolvency well before the end of their productive life spans?

No matter how long the window for viable investments remains open, one thing is clear—the Justin Trudeau government has already shortened it by a decade or more. During the eight year oil price depression that began in late 2014, new pipelines to tidewater were the one glimmer of hope for an improvement in the prices received by Canadian exporters. With more than 90,000 jobs lost in oil and gas production, manufacturing and construction by 2017, there were a lot of unemployed people in the producing provinces looking for a break. Northern Gateway, Energy East and Trans Mountain would of course allow Canadian producers to avoid the steep discounts they were subject to in the US for a significant proportion of their exports. The Trudeau Liberals cancelled any hope for that modestly brighter future.

Trans Mountain was the exception. It was the consolation prize to make up for the cancellations of Northern Gateway, Energy East and the Keystone XL. And yes, amazingly, the federal government finally got it built. It was touch and go. We were always just one bird nest away from another lengthy delay.

But wait, take heart. There is mounting evidence to suggest the hand wringing climate activists and cautious investors could have it all wrong. The goals of the green transition will probably take many more decades to achieve than they imagine.

In fact, recent events suggest the whole green transition project could actually be coming off the rails. Europe’s Green politicians are being clobbered at the polls while climate change skeptics from populist and conservative parties continue to attract voters and win elections. Green transition initiatives have been postponed and cancelled in several EU countries and the UK. The principal cause of the retreat is popular resistance to green transition initiatives that contribute to what is already an unacceptably high cost of living.

For instance, the Yellow Vests protests in France forced President Emmanuel Macron to forego a number of unpopular fuel tax measures including a carbon tax. But that wasn’t until after 11 people died and over 4,000 were injured as a result of the protests. The protests began in November 2018 and have continued sporadically to the present.

Protests by farmers in the Netherlands in 2019 beat back GHG reduction measures which would have restricted nitrogen fertilizer use and cut the national cow herd by one-half. Farmers refused to accept the assault on their incomes and plugged the country’s highways with their tractors. One of their demonstrations was reported to have caused 1000 km of traffic jams. In another protest they shut down Eindhoven airport for a day. Members of one of the more militant groups participating in the protests, the Farmers Defense Force, threatened civil war.

A new political party, the Farmer-Citizen Movement (Dutch: BBB), arose out of the Dutch farm protests. In March of 2023, the BBB won the popular vote in Netherlands’ provincial elections (they are all held on the same day) and the majority of seats in each of the country’s 12 provinces. The victory is all the more significant because the provincial governments choose who sits in the national Senate which has the power to block legislation. Protests by farmers over similar green transition projects have been occurring in France, Belgium and Germany.

The German government’s ambitious heat pump mandate had to be postponed and rethought. The ineptitude of environmentally-friendly bureaucrats who came up with the scheme was evident in the fact they still hadn’t figured out which type of heat pumps would work best under different conditions. For example, the heat pumps’ inability to operate effectively in cold weather was one of the details planners had overlooked. Additionally, they neglected to train enough technicians in heat pump installation to actually put them in people’s homes. Green politicians and their allies in government were blamed for the technical debacle and high costs for consumers. As a result, populists and likeminded conservative candidates have been defeating the Greens and Social Democrats in regional elections.

The October 2023 state elections in economically and politically powerful Hesse and Bavaria provided two of the more significant (and startling) losses in support of Germany’s three party governing coalition that includes the social democrats and the Greens. What the coalition parties lost, the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) and conservatives won. (The Greens claim the AfD are “climate change denialists.”)  The AfD is now the second largest party in terms of voter support in Hesse and the third largest in Bavaria. The online publication Energy Wire observed that the AfD platform featured concern for the flagging German economy, high energy prices, climate policy, the energy transition and immigration (in that order). More recently the Greens were the biggest losers in this May’s vote in the city state of Bremen. The Green’s 11.7% share of the vote was their poorest showing in 25 years.

Last year’s auction of UK government contracts for new offshore wind farms failed to receive a single bid. Under the auction scheme companies who purchased permits to build wind farms would receive a guaranteed premium price for the electricity they produced. The premium offered was too low to attract any interest. The Sunak government was simply not prepared to weather the consumer backlash that would accompany raising the guaranteed premium price high enough to attract bidders. Increasing the premium would require increasing electrical bills and/or taxes paid by British voters.

Melting glaciers are apparently not enough to convince some Europeans to open their wallets in support of achieving net zero. This applies even in the heart of the Alps in Switzerland. The 2020 Swiss referendum on a plan for achieving net zero GHG emissions by 2050 was soundly defeated. A significantly revised plan was later approved, but only after carbon taxes had been removed in favour of a carbon offset system and a number of other tax measures had been withdrawn. The Economist reported that one of the loudest lobby groups opposing the first referendum was the organization for Swiss resort and hotel owners. The carbon tax threatened to raise the cost of making artificial snow.

Europe’s Greens hoped to take a victory lap after recent increases in the number of solar power farms being built across Europe; especially in Germany. They have been woefully disappointed. Their promises about the thousands of new jobs that would be created by the transition to renewables proved empty and voters are not impressed. It turns out 95% of the solar systems installed in Europe are imported from Asia, mostly from China. With the exception of some local installation work, the lion’s share of the economic benefits and jobs go to Chinese firms.

No less embarrassing is the fact that one third of the essential components for Chinese solar systems are sourced from Xinjiang Province where manufacturers are known to be using forced labour. Members of the region’s Uyghur minority, who are being held prisoner in “reeducation camps,” provide the captive labour. Europe’s own solar panel producers are lobbying for relief in the form of trade restrictions on Chinese imports and/or EU subsidies. Solar system advocates in the west are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. To create the promised jobs will likely require stiff tariffs that will in turn increase the cost of solar energy and contribute to the public backlash over the already high cost of living.

Europe’s solar power dilemma echoes the French populist, Marine Le Pen’s, critique of global free trade: “Globalization is when slaves in China make things to sell to the unemployed in the west.” Le Pen came second in the last French presidential election. She has a shot at winning the next one which will be held three years from now. Le Pen is an EU skeptic who is unlikely to readily buy into its suite of exceedingly zealous GHG reduction targets and green transition policies; especially those relying heavily on foreign imports.

European auto makers have geared up their electric car production capabilities in anticipation of the EU ban on the manufacturing of new internal combustion passenger vehicles set for 2035. They are currently worried Chinese electric vehicle makers (EVs) are going to eat their lunch. The zippy little EVs made in China are far less expensive than European models. Chinese EV exports grew by 70% last year to just over $34 billion. As is the case with solar systems, the employment benefits associated with the transition to electric vehicles will be enjoyed in China not Europe. Apparently, European auto makers are frantically lobbying their governments to follow Joe Biden’s example and impose hefty tariffs on Chinese made EVs. If the car makers get their wish, jobs will be saved in Europe but the costs to European car buyers will be higher than they would be if they could buy Chinese autos. Europe’s EV problems involve the same sort of high costs versus jobs Catch 22 plaguing the EU’s solar system manufacturers. Whichever way things go, a lot of voters will be unhappy.

The growing list of failed and failing green transition initiatives is in part responsible for the surge in support for populist and conservative parties in Europe (Poland’s general election being a recent exception). And, most of Europe’s populist politicians are openly opposed to measures that increase taxes and the cost of living on behalf of combating climate change. The electoral success of the right-wing populist party, the Party for Freedom (Dutch: PVV) in the Netherlands’ November 2023 federal election is a case in point. The PVV is led by the infamous anti-immigration populist, Geert Wilders.

Wilders is not a climate change denier. He just doesn’t want to ruin the Dutch economy to combat it. Dutch environmentalists warn sea level rise caused by climate change warrants a significant reductions in GHG emissions; particularly in a country where 26% of the land is below sea level. Wilders’ solution is to just build the dikes higher.

The PVV won more seats than any other party in 2023 giving it the plurality but not a majority in the Dutch parliament. On May 16, four parties including the PVV and the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) finally cobbled together a coalition government. Geert Wilders will become prime minister sometime this June. Obviously, neither the PVV or the BBB are fans of the EU’s climate change mitigation policies.

Closer to home, should Donald Trump win this November’s U.S. presidential election, progress toward net zero will virtually cease in the US for at least the next four years. And, in Canada, if current federal polling numbers hold up until Trudeau finally calls an election, we can expect the cancellation of a number of Liberal environmental initiatives; presumably, the No More Pipelines Bill and the carbon tax in particular.

The foregoing examples of recent setbacks, along with stories told by the tea leaves, indicate the road toward a green transition will be pitted with potholes and subject to roadblocks. Achieving net zero by 2050 is far from a slam dunk. Oil production is just as likely to prove far more robust than the environmental movement imagines.

Then again, if science figures out how to contain fusion reactions for extended periods of time in the next decade or so, all bets are off. Nobody knows for certain what the future holds when it comes to geopolitical conditions and energy production thirty to fifty years from today. The economist, John Maynard Keynes, claimed the only consolation for those foolishly trying accurately to predict events over the long run, was that “In the long run we are all dead.”

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