Opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline, while preferring to refine crude from the Alberta tar sands in Canada rather than in the U.S., imposing a cap-and -trade approach to the emission of deadly carbon into the atmosphere, in effect bringing balance and environmental protection to the development of Canada's natural energy resources...these are just the highlights of a speech by Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair yesterday, on the same day the world was focused on celebrating the life of one of this generation's most bold and most tenacious and steadfast visionaries, Nelson Mandela, who passed away at 95.
Both Harper and Trudeau-led parties support Keystone XL, and the right-wing press conflates the permanent 50-odd jobs that would be created by the pipeline's construction, according to President Obama, with the long-term refinery jobs that would convert Alberta heavy crude to exportable energy onto the world markets.
The right-wing press also portrays Mulcair's plan as "too interventionist" to suit their capitalist readers, most of whom would have to forfeit a playing field that is without public interest (except in the jobs created) and have to deal with those nasty "tree-huggers" who really do believe that it is possible to balance the development of energy resources with environmental protections.
With respect to the oversight and approval process for energy development, the right-wing media also condemns Mulcair's proposal to enhance the powers of the National Energy Board, while retaining the right of Cabinet to declare some projects off-side, without permitting them to go to the NEB for evaluation. Of course, the role of the federal government is to make the strategic decisions necessary for the achievement of national goals, while also permitting a transparent and fair public process for hearings without cabinet interference.
While there are comparisons being made to other NDP proposals in various provinces, proposals which seem to have fallen in deaf voters' ears at the ballot box, these are bold, and clear and achievable national goals and strategies that will finally bring the corporate energy behemoths to heel while still preserving a legitimate seat at the national table of negotiations with the provinces, First Nations and the Canadian public, a goal that is long overdue.
And of course, the right-wing media also sees the proposals of an NDP government as evil simply because of the strong support for balancing long-term goals of a sustainable environment with less greedy and voracious and narcissistic development of the energy sector through an unfettered private, corporate sector.
To right the balance needed between energy development and environmental protection, after decades of unfettered profit-driven capitalism that disdains even the need for serious environmental protection, will require more of the kind of statesmanship that Mandela demonstrated when, after 27 years in prison on Robben Island, he refused to accede to some of his ANC partners' demands for revenge and retribution of the white supremacy that created and prolonged apartheid to the absolute trashing of the indigenous blacks of South Africa. Before Robben Island, Mandela was a fierce, and committed ANC revolutionary who believed that violence was the only way to stop apartheid, given the violence that was being inflicted on 'his' people. On his emergence from prison however, he brought about reconciliation of seemingly irreconcilable forces through patience, intelligence, shrewdness and compassionate forgiveness. By instituting the Reconciliation Commission chaired by Bishop Desmond Tutu, he lanced the national boil that was ready to erupt in violence without his leadership. While there is not the intensity of opposition to the stripping of environmental protections in Canada that there was to apartheid in South Africa, (Canadians do not even revolt or take to the streets in large numbers at the recent shenanigans around Toronto City Hall!!!) there is a deep divide between the ideologies, perceptions, ethics and goals of the corporate energy sector and the environmental lobby, in spite of all those U.S. oil-company advertisements that pit one side against the other while concluding that "we agree"!
Both the environmental lobby and the corporate board rooms will have to agree to sit at the same table in a spirit of "working to yes" to a series of compromises that everyone at the table and watching across the country knows are in the long-term best interests of the Canadian people, as well as the people across the planet, if Mulcair's proposals are to have any hope of achievement. And his integration of his own determination and fire with his new-found grace and patience with those who consider his position untenable and even evil, will be necessary to bring the two sides together to the same table. And before that scenario has a chance to play out, he has to convince the Canadian people that he is worthy of their trust to form a government, while both Liberals and Conservatives, funded as they are and will be by the corporate fat-cats, continue to demonize both the man and his ideas throughout the election season, only a matter of months away.
By Shawn McCarthy, Globe and Mail, December 4, 2013
The New Democratic Party leader also renewed his pledge to impose a cap-and-trade system that would limit industrial greenhouse emissions, but allow companies to trade for credits to enable the most efficient, economy-wide reductions. He said the revenue raised from the plan would be used to finance the development of clean energy technology. The Conservatives have frequently slammed the NDP’s cap-and-trade plan as a “tax on everything.”
Mr. Mulcair said the Conservatives have presented Canadians with a “false choice” between economic growth and environmental protection.
Seeking to position his party as a government in waiting, he laid out a sweeping policy that would reverse the Harper government’s recent regulatory changes; partner with provinces and aboriginal communities on resource development, and aggressively pursue opportunities in the clean-tech sector, including the reinstatement of the popular EcoEnergy retrofit that underwrote energy efficiency investments by homeowners and businesses.
The plan would “leverage[s] our natural resource wealth to invest in modern, clean energy technology that will keep Canada on the cutting edge of energy development and ensure affordable energy rates into the future,” he said.
The NDP Leader said the Conservatives have dismantled the country’s environmental protection in the pursuit of resource development, an approach that will have costly, long-term consequences at home and undermines industry’s effort to develop new markets abroad.
“Business leaders know that the future of Canada’s natural resource sector will be based on our access to global markets,” he said. “And that access, in turn, will be based on the perception of how we develop those resources.”