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article imageOp-Ed: Why Thomas Mulcair is wrong on the Keystone XL pipeline

By Karl Gotthardt     Mar 18, 2013 in Politics
Ottawa - New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Thomas Mulcair has been vocal on the Keystone XL pipeline. Visiting US lawmakers last week, he made negative comments, which could affect the decision. He dismissed criticism, but fell short of a definitive stand.
During his visit to the US last week, where Thomas Mulcair met with US lawmakers, including the most powerful House Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, he spread the message that Canada's environmental record was terrible. Digital Journal reported that he accused 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 “They know that Canada is the only country that has withdrawn from Kyoto.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."
Nancy Pelosi, US House of Representatives Majority Leader, quoted a radio broadcast she was tuned into on Thursday morning, where a lobbyist was touting the value of the pipeline in terms of jobs and pump prices. She said the proponents claim for tens of thousands of new jobs was just not true. She said that the claims were distorted and questioned why there just couldn't be a discussion on the facts.
Pelosi said that she had just met with Canadian legislators and that Canadians didn't want a pipeline in their own country. While Pelosi did indeed meet with Thomas Mulcair and two other New Democrat Members of Parliament on Tuesday, Pelosi's comments appear to be a misrepresentation of Mulcair's oilsands vision.
Needless to say Mulcair came under fire from both Premiers Alison Redford of Alberta and Brad Wall of Saskatchewan. Brad Wall likened Mulcair's remarks to a betrayal of Canada, which was echoed by federal cabinet ministers.
Mulcair dismissed the charges of the Tory government of trash talking Canada, saying that the conservative government seems to have forgotten how they behaved when in opposition.
"All of a sudden there's a rule that they've decided that you're not supposed to talk about the government (while abroad) now that they're the government but when they were the Opposition there was no problem talking about the government," Mulcair said in an interview at the conclusion of his trip. "So people can take that with a grain of salt."
There is no question that Stephen Harper had very conservative views, which he gladly disseminated in the US. As CBC reports Harper had no difficulties denouncing liberal governments of the day to US audiences.
He co-wrote a 2003 article in the Wall Street Journal bemoaning Chretien's "serious mistake" in refusing to join the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
"For the first time in history, the Canadian government has not stood beside its key British and American allies in their time of need," he wrote.
He made his own obligatory trip to Washington in 2005, where he stoked American fears that Canada was soft on terrorism. Among other things, he accused Liberals of consorting with ethnic groups that were linked to terrorist organizations.
Before becoming official Opposition leader, Harper gave a notorious speech — albeit in Montreal — to the U.S. Council for National Policy, in which he derided Canada as "a northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term."
On the surface Mulcair's remarks seem pretty tame compared to Harper's, but are they?
The importance of the Keystone XL pipeline to Canada
The Keystone XL pipeline and related issues are not just political, but are shared economic problems. Some would argue that it is the greatest Canada faces. The decision President Obama makes will affect every Canadian.
According to the Conference Board of Canada, the Alberta oilsands will generate $80 billion in taxes to the federal government, comprised of income tax, corporate tax and indirect taxes such as fuel sales an fuel taxes. Of that $45.3 billion goes to the federal government. This amount is equal to the federal budget for healthcar of defense procurement.
Mr. Mulcair can talk about Dutch disease affecting the economy of Ontario or Quebec, but the fact is that there is economic spin off in many sectors of the Canadian economy, affecting every province.
There are direct manufacturing spinoffs for the east, the report’s authors say: Makers of steel, steel pipes and tubes, valves, navigational, measuring, and other instruments, all will benefit. In B.C., manufacturers of plastic building materials and storage tanks, paper and wood products will see increased demand. The port of Vancouver is expected to undergo a boom in traffic from Asia. In Quebec, computer services, rail transport, communications and insurance firms will gain.
Keystone decision based on facts and politics
Mulcair's comments in the US, especially to Nancy Pelosi, were not helpful. While Alberta, Saskatchewan and the federal government are trying to sell the oilsands to Americans, Mulcair gave President Obama an out to reject the pipeline.
Greenhouse gases from the Alberta oilsands comprise one tenth of one per cent of global emissions and the latest State Department environmental impact assessment draft has confirmed that rejection or approval won't affect green house gases from the oilsands either way. The pipeline has been in the approval process for more than four years and the route through the sensitive Nebraska Sandhills has been moved and approved by the Nebraska legislature.
While John Kerry says that his recommendation will be based on facts and science and not ideology, make no mistake that this is a political decision, just as the rejection was last year. Kerry is a climate change advocate and President Obama has a new push on the environment, climate change and greenhouse gases. Environmentalists expect him to put his money where his mouth is.
If the pipeline approval is rejected it will have considerable political ramifications on Thomas Mulcair. You can rest assured that the conservative government will ensure that Mulcair gets a good portion of the blame.
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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