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Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has just announced his support for pipelines running toward Eastern Canada from Alberta’s Tar Sands. Speaking to the Canadian Club of Toronto at the Royal York, he spoke out in favour of an eastern path toward refineries in central Canada and the east which currently must pay higher prices for imported crude. These remarks show a shift in Mulcair and the NDP’s policies, who’ve generally opposed the Tar Sands until now, toward a position much friendlier to business and development.
This eastern route would include pipelines like Enbridge’s Line 9, currently in the process of reversal to handle these flows, which runs right through rural Hamilton and cuts across the province from Sarnia toward the St. Lawrence. It may also involve the repurposing of the a Transcanada gas pipeline. Much like southern or western options, it puts everything along its route at risk. Last year’s spill in Kalamazoo (along the route) showed these risks clearly, dumping “dilbit” (diluted bitumen) which brought about enormous damage to the surrounding environment and frightening health problems.
This choice is incredibly pragmatic on Mulcair’s part. Since western (Northern Gateway) and southern (Keystone XL) pipelines have become so controversial, a less contested route is needed if these exports are to grow as fast as planned. This has important implications for the NDP, who are expected to win provincial elections in BC next spring based largely on their opposition to pipelines and tankers. Mulcair also needs a way to back down on some of “Dutch Disease” comments which served him well as an Eastern politician but have earned him a lot of animosity in Alberta now that he’s a national leader. Supporting an eastern route allows him to play both sides, a strategy which is fast coming to define Mulcair.
I warned you about this guy. The direction he’s taking the NDP in looks far too much like a reincarnation of the failing Liberals than the party created by Tommy Douglas. This kind of casual, unprincipled opportunism defined the reign and fall of Mulcair’s old party, witnessed most recently with his old friend and colleague Jean Charest. While this may allow him a shot at the Prime Minister’s office (something any of Layton’s successors would have had), it also threatens to abandon the beliefs which founded and sustained the NDP. Like other “leftist” parties around the world, they’re deciding to take a dramatic rightward turn just as their populations take massive steps (and marches) in the other direction.
What electoral option does this position leave for the other eight provinces, who don’t want this awful black sludge running through their backyards any more than Mulcair’s friends in BC? This hypocrisy only further confirms the dead end that is parliamentary politics, in which a single sellout can leave millions without a voice at the ballot box. This is a big part of the reason why so many of the massive movements which have sprung up over the past few years, from Egypt to Greece to Zuccotti Park have been so openly hostile to any kind of party politics, and an excellent reason for them to continue on that path.
If a pipeline to the Pacific from Alberta is unacceptably dangerous, then pipelines to the Atlantic are simply insane. With hundreds of thousands of barrels of diluted bitumen flowing, it’s only a matter of time before something breaks. When that happens, what spills is far worse than ordinary crude oil, but more like a mix of road tar and napatha (zippo/camp fuel). All of this will be done in the name of expanding production of some of the world’s dirtiest oil. Mulcair’s support for this project is no surprise, but it is a disappointment. Resistance, though, will go on without him. We will stop this project with or without the NDP’s help, and if they don’t want to take part, then they’ll have to risk being left behind.