The NDP Supports a West-to-East Tar Sands Pipeline
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?
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.
I’ll let you know what she says if she replies.
In the mean time, here is the town hall.