Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fracking causes gonorrhea, among bizarre claims. Saskatoon Starphoenix Fracking Things Everyone Should KnowBy Mark Milke, The Starphoenix:
Milke is a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute.
One benefit of writing columns is the chance to receive feedback from readers - whether fans, critics, or the merely curious. Responses can reflect the rainbow of human emotion, from cheery agreement to annoyance to the equivalent of road rage.
Much of what I (and my colleagues at the institute) do is analyze how politicians spend tax dollars, and the multiple ways governments affect our lives. As a result, any report or column that recommends changes to the status quo is sure to touch someone's interest, with the predictable results. Some are thoughtful, others less than enlightening, but all are worth a read.
For example, I wrote about the nearly three million government sector employees (83 per cent) across Canada wo have defined benefit pension plans that create large, unfunded liabilities and/or jacked-up contribution rates from taxpayers. That compares to just 1.5 million private sector workers (just 13 per cent) with such guaranteed payment retirement plans.
Even though government unions have long had their way with taxpayers, any proposed reforms on compensation generates plenty of heat and not much light. One woman wrote to tell me how she had been a childcare worker and deserved a guaranteed benefits pension, and anyone who thought otherwise must not care about children. Another government worker wrote to say his taxpayer-funded pension was evidence of civilized society.
Yet another emailer, a retired government worker, was quite upset about the teasing he received at cocktail parties about his pension. He then claimed, "The majority of Canadians, who are not in the public sector, do nothing in terms of planning or saving for their retirements; they then proceed to bitch and bellyache about those who have."
He also asserted that private sector employees possessed a sense of entitlement and should have spent less and saved more, or they should have taken a government job.
Good grief, Charlie Brown. Of course a certain level of government and some government employees are necessary and part of any developed and civilized society. But let's not overstate it. It is a bit narcissistic to equate pension reform for government workers - akin to what Saskatchewan's NDP long ago introduced in the province - with the coming end of civilization.
The film sector was unhappy after I pointed out that film tax credits are just another corporate subsidy. Predictable responses arrived, all claiming that the film industry generates extra tax revenues like manna from heaven that balances out the generous taxpayer help in Canadian provinces and American states.
But one correspondent, a film production manager, said: "You have only touched the edge of this star-struck phenomenon." He explained how film policy develops, at least in Alberta: "Currently, Alberta film producers advise the government on policy, and I liken it to Al Capone advising the government on Prohibition."
Fracking, an issue in 2013, generated perhaps the most bizarre response.
My colleague Kenneth Green and I wrote about how by approving fracking for oil and gas, some provinces, Quebec and Atlantic Canada in particular, might generate extra dollars for their coffers. We also, importantly, noted how risks from fracking are low, this according to U.S. National Academies of Science.
And the response from someone at the Halifax chapter of the Sierra Club? That fracking has caused "a 62 per cent increase in sexually transmitted infections (chlamydia and gonorrhea) in rural communities linked with unconventional resource development."
So, fracking for natural gas and oil causes the clap. Who knew?

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