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My Interview with Green Party of Ontario Politicians: Erich Jacoby Hawkins & John Fisher

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Our Senate has fewer powers than the American, in that it can only review and either pass legislation, reject it, or send it back with recommended changes. All legislation originates in the House; the Senate cannot introduce new bills. The Senate can commission studies on important issues but their findings and recommendations, while often very balanced or progressive, have no force of law and generally are shelved if they don't suit the agenda of the ruling party.

Traditionally the Senate at least examined and debated House-passed bills before rejecting them, but recently the minority Prime Minister has managed to create a majority for his party in the Senate (through appointment of cronies) and they have used this to reject a House bill without discussion.

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SB: I understand your Senators can be dismissed from their post if they fail to show up for two consecutive parliamentary sessions or if they turn 75. Does this improve the quality of your Senators?

The age limit seems reasonable, if arbitrary, and I don't know that it makes a lot of difference. A session represents a season, and attending it does not mean attending every sitting, so the attendance rule is not very strict and has only rarely (if ever?) been enforced.

SB: Erich, you are on the Shadow Cabinet - Ecological Fiscal Reform. Could you describe what that is specifically, and also what a Shadow Cabinet is?

EJH: In the Canadian parliamentary system, derived from the British system, the Cabinet is formed of Members of Parliament (MPs) who are each elected to the House to represent a local constituency, then chosen by the Prime Minister to manage a portfolio (ministry). The leader of the Cabinet, and effectively the leader of the government, is the Prime Minister who is likewise elected in a single district, but chosen by his party to lead. This is quite different from the US where the President is directly elected nationwide while his Cabinet are appointed by his choice only and usually not drawn from currently serving representatives.

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After an election, the party with the most seats is asked to lead and form a governing cabinet. The second-largest party is labeled the "Loyal Opposition" and sits across the legislature from the government members. This opposition party then appoints, from their own ranks, a "critic" for each ministry whose job it is to monitor (shadow) that ministry & minister and to critique their actions. Together, these representatives are termed the "shadow cabinet" and form a sub-set of that party's elected caucus, also known as the "front bench" (because of occupying the front seats in the legislature). (Those MPs who are not in cabinet or shadow cabinet are termed "backbenchers".) In a traditional two-party system, one would have a single Cabinet and a single Shadow Cabinet, but Canada has had a three-, four- or five-party tradition for several decades now, and each opposition party has their own shadow cabinet who critique the ministries from their own particular ideological stance. Thus the Green Party has a shadow cabinet, a group of 20-40 candidates who are each assigned to a ministry or portfolio and are responsible for maintaining a degree of familiarity with issues in that sphere and issuing periodic press releases on related topics. In the elected parties shadow cabinet members are elected MPs, but the Green Party does not yet have elected MPs, so our Shadow Cabinet is instead drawn from (generally) our strongest candidates in terms of vote performance. (Specifically, 41 of our 305 candidates exceeded 10% of the local vote in the last election, and the majority of our SC are made up of these "ten-percenters".)

SB: John & Erich, you both support the Green Tax Reform, an idea with roots in the economic philosophy of 19th century political economist Henry George. Could you describe the basics of this reform proposal and also the specific Green tax resolution passed in June of this year?

JF : It was me that introduced the Georgist philosophy (raised it's profile) in the GPO/GPC. I became a Green in 1997 and the leader, Frank de Jong, began to promote it. This party is absorbing Georgist economics (why do some individuals and not others absorb Georgist economics?), partly due to a prior identification with the environment. It was a matter of aligning Green/Georgist terminology and enforcing the connection between achieving Green objectives and using Georgist economics as the tool.

Economic Rent (see David Recardo's Law of Rent) is not earned by the individual (only as part of the community) but is created by the presence and activity of the community as a whole (roads, business, demands for unique locations). The latter is earned by the community (tax jurisdiction) that created it! Resource fees should approximate economic rent!

After 'resource fees/economic rent' is captured by the community the former speculative income from owning land would be significantly reduced. Total speculative advantages will never be eliminated and there might be some managing/accounting/philosophical advantages.

Those farmers who keep wetlands, hedgerows etc. that benefit all would be compensated for their community contribution. The amount (to me) would be determined by subtracting the privately created value (livestock, some trees, any use) and the publicly created value (air, open space, some trees etc.) from the total to get the difference. The input should include all possible factors! Please refer to a copy of the Alternative Land Use Services Brochure (Norfolk County, Ontario).

The above (any Georgist rent capture) should not depress production because it is not a tax on production (labor and capital). Compensation revenue would come from economic rent captured!

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The determination is by a free market, which is not the case now!

SB: Could you explain the difference between earned and unearned income with respect to your proposed tax shifting resolution? Can you explain how the land-owning minority benefits from improvements in a way that the non-land-owning majority does not?

EJH: Earned income reflects the product of a person's efforts. Wages, salary, and commissions and bonuses would be standard forms of earned income. Unearned income represents the product of holding some kind of monopoly, money gained through economic rent. Capital gains (beyond inflation), land rent, and any price increase due to economic rent would be unearned income. Interest income could fall into either (or both) category, depending on what kind of investment or lending was involved. Investment in a venture would return earned income, while returns from land holdings or speculation would be unearned. Rental of man-made property (buildings, equipment) would be earned income. Interest that banks gain by lending bank-created money is unearned income.

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Scott Baker is a Managing Editor & The Economics Editor at Opednews, and a blogger for Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Global Economic Intersection.

His anthology of updated Opednews articles "America is Not Broke" was published by Tayen Lane Publishing (March, 2015) and may be found here:

Scott is a former President of Common Ground-NYC (, a Geoist/Georgist activist group. He has written dozens of articles for (more...)

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