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article imageCanada: Thomas Mulcair meets with Obama administration officials

By Karl Gotthardt     Mar 11, 2013 in Politics
Ottawa - New Democratic Party (NDP) and leader of the official opposition Thomas Mulcair will be in Washington this week to meet with officials of the Obama administration and members of Congress. With views closer aligned to Democrats, what can he accomplish?
When Mulcair visits Washington this week, he will undoubtedly get a cordial reception from congressional Democrats and members of the Obama administration. According to the Globe and Mail, Mulcair won't be advocating for or against the XL Keystone pipeline.
The NDP has been vocal on its description of the Alberta oilsands, with the late Jack Layton describing it as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Mulcair compared it to Dutch disease, but has dropped the derogatory term "tarsands."
Mulcair will tread carefully, especially since western premiers like Brad Wall of Saskatchewan and Alberta's Alison Redford have accused Mulcair of dividing the country, rather than unifying it. He has shifted his oilsands view to a more acceptable public opinion, which advocates the extraction of crude, but sees Canadian energy needs as the priority.
“Keystone itself represents the export of about 40,000 jobs,” he said, suggesting that a trans-Canada pipeline, including a link to a tide-water port for export, is the priority. “If you have a Canadian government that’s acting in the best interests of all Canadians, then moving [Alberta’s oil-sands crude] from west to east is important,” he said.
He said he wanted to outline to Americans, “the NDP vision for the future,” and that includes explaining his support for major national projects – such as a major west-to-east pipeline – that knit Canadians together.
While Canada and the US, at least on surface, share a cordial relationship, it is no secret that the two governments pursue totally opposite ideologies. Visions of both Democrats and the NDP are closer aligned, especially in relation to environmental and social justice issues.
The XL Keystone pipeline is in the final stages toward a decision by President Obama and Premiers Brad Wall and Alison Redford have visited Washington and Chicago lately to lobby lawmakers and business leaders for approval of the project. Their focus has shifted on their environmental records rather than economic benefits.
Preston Manning, widely credited as the father of modern conservatism, in a speech this weekend in Ottawa said that conservatives are consistently strong on the economy, yet weak or disinterested on the environment.
Manning said it was time for Conservatives to take a "proactive" approach to the environment.
"There is a major job to be done in mobilizing grassroots support for environmentalism," Manning said.
The former Reform party leader, who has long sought to connect conservatism and conservation, said there should be room for green Conservatives or grassroots conservationists under the conservative tent.
"We seem to feel like someone else has the high ground but on the environmental front, the truth is, nobody occupies the high ground."
Mulcair will attempt to do just that when he meets with officials of the Obama administration, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and congressional leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
The NDP believes that it is in a position to form a government in 2015 and as such Mulcair wants to send a signal to Americans and the Obama administration that it may soon be dealing with a very different government in Ottawa.
While many of the policies of the NDP align with the US administration, Mulcair will also stress the importance of minimizing delays at the border, which since 9/11 has become a major aggravation for bilateral trade.
Mulcair will not get an audience with President Obama.
More about Canadian Politics, thomas mulcair, New democratic party, Opposition party, Keystone pipeline
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