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The NDP Supports a West-to-East Tar Sands Pipeline

2013/04/13

I received an e-mail this morning inviting me to watch the previous night’s “town hall” type event that happened at the NDP’s policy convention.  I have to admit that I was interested.  So, I clicked the link and prepared to be impressed.  Unfortunately, I didn’t watch for very long. (If you’d like to watch the town hall yourself, I’ve embedded the video at the end of the post.)

The first question that Leader Thomas Mulcair answered was about the economy.  The person asking the question wanted to know what the NDP would do differently than the current Conservative government.  Mulcair began by discussing how, since the election of the Federal Conservatives, Canada’s international trade imbalance has gone from a surplus of $18 billion to a deficit of $68 billion.  Then, he discussed how the provincial NDP government in Manitoba has lowered (to zero!) taxes on small businesses.  (Apparently, this has lead to one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada.)  He compared this to the Federal Conservatives who have given more than $50 billion in tax breaks to large businesses such as banks and oil companies.  As part of his answer, Mulcair also mentioned that the NDP would consider the economic, social and environmental impacts of every decision they made.

That sounded promising, but it clashed with what came next.

The second question was regarding the creation of a sustainable economy, managing Canada’s resources and the need for creating jobs here in Canada.

Now, maybe it’s my own fault that I was so disappointed.  I was hoping for something along the lines of “let’s fight climate change while growing our economy (blah blah blah) increasing efficiency (blah blah blah) and renewable energy (blah blah blah).”  But, no.  His answer was, rather than building a pipeline from Alberta to Texas (the Keystone XL pipeline), we need to build a pipeline west to east, refine the bitumen in Canada and create jobs here.  This will lead to greater energy security, more jobs for Canadians and more royalties for the provinces.  In Mulcair’s words, “that’s a win, win, win situation.”

And that’s when I stopped watching.

Not only do I have some serious doubts that a west-to-east pipeline “will lead to greater energy security, more jobs for Canadians and more royalties for the provinces”, but, hasn’t Mr. Mulcair seen what is happening in the town of Mayflower, Arkansas?

"Bird's eye view" of Alberta bitumen passing through Mayflower, Arkansas.  Image: nydailynews.com

“Bird’s eye view” of Alberta bitumen passing through Mayflower, Arkansas. Image: nydailynews.com

Alberta bitumen delivery - right to your back door!  Image: switchboard.nrdc.org.

Alberta bitumen delivery – right to your back door! Image: switchboard.nrdc.org.

Example 1 of why Exxon-Mobil has no concern for the quality of the clean up they do:  Those buoys are useless because bitumen is heavier than water.  Image: nydailynews.com.

Example 1 of why Exxon-Mobil has no concern for the quality of the clean up they do: Those buoys are useless because bitumen is heavier than water. Image: nydailynews.com.

Example 1 of why Exxon-Mobil has no concern for the quality of the clean up they do: they are using paper towels to clean up the thousands of liters of oil that has been spilled.  Image: forum.canucks.com.

Example 2 of why Exxon-Mobil has no concern for the quality of the clean up they do: they are using paper towels to pick up the thousands of litres of oil that have been spilled. Image: forum.canucks.com.

As a result of Mr. Mulcair’s (and the NDP’s) position on this pipeline, I decided write to the NDP’s environment critic, Megan Leslie.  Here is what I told her:

Dear Megan Leslie,

My name is (Mr.) Jocelyn Plourde.  I am a teacher, living in PEI.  In my spare time, I study environmental issues and am working on my Master’s degree.  My thesis will be about public policy and climate change adaptation.  So, as you can imagine, environmental issues are at the top of my list of priorities.

I began watching yesterday’s “online town hall” that your party put up on Youtube.  Unfortunately, I stopped after Thomas Mulcair discussed your party’s plan for a west-east pipeline, from the Tar Sands to Atlantic Canada. 

According to world-renowned climatologist James Hansen, if the Keystone XL pipeline is built, it’s “game over” for our climate.  It will be the same is we build any pipeline leading from the Tar Sands.  And the reason is simple: there is enough carbon in Alberta’s oil that if we dig it all up and burn it, by itself, it would increase global temperatures by 0.4 degrees Celsius.   

We can talk about the safety of pipelines carrying Alberta Tar Sands oil, as is currently being demonstrated in Mayflower, Arkansas.  However, the more critical point is that any pipeline from Alberta will allow the growth of production in Alberta’s Tar Sands.  And this is an irresponsible position to have.  As the NDP’s environmental critic, I assume that you are aware of the risks of climate change and the incredibly short amount of time that we have to transition our economies away from fossil fuels.  As such, we cannot allow our Canadian economy to continue to rely on fossil fuel revenues.  Instead we need to invest our efforts on energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy.

I regret to say that if the position of the NDP is to support the building of this (or any other) pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands, then I will give my next vote to someone else.  And I will do my best to encourage others to do the same.

Sincerely,

Jocelyn Plourde 

I’ll let you know what she says if she replies.

In the mean time, here is the town hall.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. 2013/04/13 8:00 pm

    The last JP Greenword post by Jocelyn Plourde of PEI rejects the NDP’s plan to support an East-West pipeline from the Tar Sands in Alberta to Quebec and New Brunswick. If the NDP continues it’s support of the East-West pipeline, JP Greenword vows to vote for another party, and to get others to do the same. I agree with him on that point as well, which is why I’m a member of the Green Party of New Brunswick and the Federal Green Party.

    David Coon of Green Party New Brunswick has another solution: the New Economy, which is a new Green Economy. So over the next several days I’m going to post a series of videos from David’s New Economy Tour in response to the NDP’s ‘put a pipeline through it’ plan. The NDP plan is a false solution because it doesn’t create more than a dozen permanent jobs and in fact leads to under-investment in new green energy technology, which has created thousands of jobs in Germany and other ecologically progressive nations.

    I’m going to start with David’s tour of one of the most impressive industries in New Brunswick, Maritime Geothermal, based in Petticodiac, which is the largest producer of geothermal systems in Canada. Yes, that’s right, the largest.

    • 2013/04/14 8:03 am

      Thank you Mr. Coon! It is about time that politicians start talking about the economic opportunities that are involved in transitioning away from fossil fuels.
      If your electricity and your gasoline come “from away”, the money you spend on those sources of energy leave your province. Where as, if you are buying electricity that was produced by the wind turbine down the street, the money stays and can be used again in your province, improving the local economy. And in order for energy to be produced locally, provinces need to put in place feed-in tariffs.
      By the way, I’m a “he”, not a “she” :)

  2. 2013/04/13 8:03 pm

    JP could you please post the link to the original NDP/Mulcair ‘town hall’ video?

  3. 2013/04/14 8:09 am

    If anyone would like a second reason to criticize the NDP about their hypocritical position regarding the West-to-East pipeline, it can be found later in the video. Thomas Mulcair is asked about the Conservatives’ gutting of environmental laws and as part of his response, Mulcair discusses the mining waste that is leaking arsenic into Slave Lake. He says we have “no excuse” to let this type of situation occur today. And yet, the Alberta Tar Sands have more than one hundred square kilometres of tailings ponds from the upgrading of tar sands. Those tailings ponds are growing every day. They are leaking every day. And if we build any pipeline away from the Alberta Tar Sands, the growth of those tailings ponds will accelerate. And there is no way to clean up these tailings ponds. If there was, we’d already be doing it.

  4. 2013/04/14 9:29 pm

    Paper towels! aahhhhh

    • 2013/04/16 5:03 am

      I wonder if they splurged and got the “quilted” kind?!?
      Seriously though, this is completely insane. It demonstrates how oil companies have no idea how to clean up after an oil spill – especially one of bitumen.

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