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article imageOp-Ed: Did Thomas Mulcair betray Canada during his visit to Washington?

By Karl Gotthardt     Mar 14, 2013 in Politics
Washington - Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall accused Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the Official opposition of betraying Canada's national interest during his recent visit to the US. Wall was referring to Mulcair's Keystone pipeline comments and his view on the oilsands.
Canada's federal politicians and the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan have recently conducted whirlwind tours to the US to lobby for the Alberta oilsands. While their initial focus was on the benefits to the economy their focus has shifted to selling Canada's environmental record. Both Alberta's Premier Alison Redford and Saskatchewan's Premier Brad Wall have made these visits, with Redford attending the recent National Governor's Conference.
The XL Keystone pipeline is in the final stages of reaching a decision, which President Obama is expected to make in August. With his renewed focus on the environment and greenhouse gases (GHG), the president is under pressure to put his money where his mouth is. The discussion in the US has shifted from economic benefits to the damage of the environment caused by oilsands development and pipeline construction.
As reported in Digital Journal, Mulcair's stated aim of his visit to Washington was to introduce himself to US politicians and to send the message that they may soon be dealing with a totally different government in Canada. Mulcair and the NDP believe that they have a good shot at forming the next government. Mulcair has remained tight lipped over what he actually discussed with US politicians.
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.
Why is Brad Wall upset?
Traditionally even opposition leaders, when visiting the US, have Canada's interest first and foremost in mind and try to advance it. According to the National Post this is not what Mulcair did. Mulcair's message to the US is that Canada's environmental record is terrible. He accuses the Canadian government of gutting environmental assessments for energy projects and that climate change is not among its priorities.
In the U.S. people know how to read,” he said. “They know that Canada is the only country that has withdrawn from Kyoto. They know that the Conservatives can’t possibly meet their Copenhagen targets [on greenhouse gas emissions] precisely because of the oilsands. They have to stop playing people for fools.
The NDP opposes the XL Keystone pipeline that would expand export of Alberta crude oil to 830,000 barrels a day.
According to … studies, Keystone represents the export of 40,000 jobs and we think that is a bad thing for Canada,” Mulcair said in an interview. “We have never taken care of our energy security. We tend to forget that a 10-year supply to the U.S. is a 100-year supply to Canada. We are still going to need the energy supply to heat our homes and run our factories, whether it comes from the oilsands or it comes in the (form of) natural gas. Fossil fuels are always going to be part of the mix.
These comments outraged Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall that it caused him to take to twitter with his betrayal message.
NDP Leader who wants to be PM betrays our country's national interest. Unbelievable.
Mulcair's message will resonate with environmentalists on both sides of the US/Canada border, but is a slap in the face of those advocating for the pipeline. Spewing your politics at home is one thing, but advancing it in the United States is another. While a pipeline to the east coast of Canada and more refineries should become a priority, Canada still requires an export market for the remainder of Alberta's crude oil.
While Mulcair has apparently not given his views of where he and the NDP stand on the XL Keystone pipeline, according to the Globe and Mail, he has had no difficulty in lambasting the Harper government for, in his view, failing massively in its handling of the vast oil sands.
I don’t think we are applying the basic rules of sustainable development in Canada right now, we’ve been clear about that,” he says when asked why he won’t give a simple “yes” or “no” on whether he backs Keystone XL. The Conservative government “is not enforcing our own federal legislation, we’re not protecting the groundwater, we’re not protecting the eco-systems, we’re not protecting first nations’ health,” he added.
Mulcair doesn't give an answer on where he and the NDP stand on the oilsands. From the above statement it is abundantly clear that he is against it, yet he is fine with a pipeline to the east coast. Will eco-systems be protected with a pipeline through his home province of Quebec, or is he just interested in the economic benefits for that project?
Dirty laundry should be aired at home not in a foreign country. Mr. Muclcair has certainly done a good job introducing himself to US politicians, but it is doubtful that he actually met with Republican lawmakers. Brad Wall should be upset.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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