OTTAWA - Tom Mulcair says an NDP government would turn on its ear a Conservative policy that permits government to override environmental assessments of major energy projects.
He would allow government to kill projects before they even got as far as an environmental assessment.
"There are some things that some people would send to the NEB (National Energy Board) that we would say no to," Mulcair told reporters at downtown Ottawa hotel Wednesday.
The NDP leader had just rolled out his party's energy policy in a speech to the Economic Club of Canada, where he promised to "take arbitrary powers out of the hands of cabinet."
Mulcair vowed to repeal Conservative legislation that gives government fiat to override National Energy Board assessments on major resource projects.
The provision has raised alarms among environmentalists who fear governments could approve projects that fail the independent environmental review.
However Mulcair substituted his own arbitrary power when he explained later to reporters that an NDP government would have killed the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipeline proposals without NEB input.
Environment assessments, once completed, have to be respected, Mulcair said.
"What you can do, though, is just simply decide that some things — like the Northern Gateway pipeline would be a good example — are non-starters."
Similarly, TransCanada's $5.4-billion Keystone pipeline to the U.S. Gulf Coast, which was given the green light from the National Energy Board in 2010, never should have had a hearing, said Mulcair.
"Based on our approach to sustainable development, we would have never sent something like that to the NEB," he said.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who delivered his own energy policy pitch in a Vancouver speech Wednesday, was rendered almost speechless by Mulcair's logic.
"It's a bit of a shocker," Oliver said in a telephone interview.
"He would be making a determination on whether a project should go ahead before he knows what the regulatory consequence of building the project would be."
Oliver said under the NDP policy, "everything would be political before it's regulatory, before it gets the regulatory review. I've never heard of such a backwards approach."
Mulcair provided the example of a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal adjacent to Quebec City that he stopped when he was the provincial Liberal environment minister. Mulcair said the project was so ill-conceived that he never forwarded the proposal for an environmental assessment.
"It made no sense at all and I wasn't going to send it," said the New Democrat. "That was a decision taken at my level. I said, this thing's not even going to study."
In his speech, Mulcair said the NDP's energy policy includes reviving the popular home retrofit program and putting a price on carbon through a cap-and-trade system.
"A New Democratic government will redirect a billion dollars a year in fossil fuel subsidies, and re-invest that money in clean energy," he added.
And he contrasted what he called a sustainable model of developing Canada's resources — "the motor of the Canadian economy" — with Conservative policies he said result in boom-and-bust exploitation.
Mulcair called the Conservative model "rip and ship."
Oliver, speaking to the Vancouver Board of Trade early Wednesday, had a different take.
The natural resources minister said Canada is in a global race to secure markets for oil and gas, an opportunity the Conservative described as "perishable."
The National Energy Board has approved three export licences for liquefied natural gas, or LNG, that clear the way for exporting 36 million tonnes of LNG a year, Oliver noted.
Those exports could begin as early as 2015, and another five west coast applications for LNG exports are under review.
Southeast Asian markets such as Japan, India, South Korea and China are looking to lock in long-term energy contracts, Oliver said in an interview, and they are looking to Canada.
"They've got to know that we can in fact deliver," said the minister. "And they don't know that yet.
"And that's what the questions I get are about: When is this going to happen? Are you sure it's going to happen? How can you make it happen?"
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In September 2011, the Dalai Lama was one of nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates who <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/09/07/nobel-peace-prize-winners_n_952248.html" target="_hplink">sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama</a> urging him "to say 'no' to the plan proposed by the Canadian-based company TransCanada to build the Keystone XL, and to turn [his] attention back to supporting renewable sources of energy and clean transportation solutions."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was among<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/09/28/nobel-prize-winners-oil-sands_n_985171.html" target="_hplink"> a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates</a> who signed letters to both U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, urging the men to stop the Keystone pipeline.
Gore has said it is essential to stop the Keystone pipeline because the tar sands oil it would carry is "the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/al-gore/the-dirtiest-fuel-on-the-_b_944186.html" target="_hplink">dirtiest source of fuel on the planet</a>."
Actor and environmentalist <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000602/" target="_hplink">Robert Redford</a> recently added his name to the list of prominent individuals who are calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/24/robert-redford-keystone-xl_n_1019789.html" target="_hplink">In a video for <em>The New York Times</em>, produced with the Natural Resources Defense Council</a>, Redford described the negative aspects of the proposed tar sands pipeline and said, "By deepening our reliance on oil, the pipeline would be a job killer." Redford has previously been vocal about calling for alternatives to oil. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-redford/keystone-xl-pipeline_b_978835.html" target="_hplink">Writing last month for HuffPost</a>, he said, "Let's build the next generation of energy efficient cars, homes and workplaces. Let's develop wind, solar and other cleaner, safer, more sustainable sources of power and fuel. Let's invest in high-speed rail and smart communities that give us better transportation options."
Actor <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0749263/" target="_hplink">Mark Ruffalo</a>, famous for films like "<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0842926/" target="_hplink">The Kids Are All Right</a>" and "<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443706/" target="_hplink">Zodiac</a>," is also an outspoken activist and opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline. Ruffalo <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/11/mark-ruffalo-tar-sands_n_924245.html" target="_hplink">said in a video</a> for the <a href="http://www.tarsandsaction.org/" target="_hplink">Tar Sands Action</a> group, "I've seen the kind of damage that out-of-control energy development can do to water and to communities near my own home, where fracking for natural gas is causing widespread pollution ... All these problems are connected -- we need to get off fossil fuels." In the past, Ruffalo has also expressed his ire for hydraulic fracturing natural gas extraction, or fracking. He told The Huffington Post, "The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/18/mark-ruffalo-fights-frack_n_810461.html" target="_hplink">world is already leaving us behind</a>. We're being left behind. America. Because the gas and oil industry has a strangle hold on us. And our politicians."
Environmentalist and author <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-mckibben/" target="_hplink">Bill McKibben</a> has expressed strong disapproval for the planned Keystone XL pipeline. In fact, he was <a href="http://www.tarsandsaction.org/press/releases/aug20/" target="_hplink">one of the first</a> of over 1,200 who were arrested at the Tar Sands Action sit-in at the White House in August. Referring to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/23/keystone-xl-frustrated-environmental-activists-obama_n_933648.html" target="_hplink">his opposition to the Keystone Pipeline</a>, McKibben told HuffPost, "The people who've carried this fight for three years are indigenous people on both sides of the border who have a huge stake in it because it's on their land, and farmers and ranchers from places like Nebraska," he said. He added, "It wasn't until I sat down and read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-james-hansen" target="_hplink">Jim Hansen</a>'s analysis of how much carbon was in those things that I understood that this was not just a national issue, it's a global issue of the first order."
<a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000506/" target="_hplink">Julia Louis-Dreyfus</a>, known for her role as Elaine on the popular sitcom "Seinfeld," has released a video urging President Obama to reject the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. Dreyfus recalls when Obama said "Let us be the generation that ends the tyranny of oil." But she says, "Big Oil is still pretty much running the show." She claims that by rejecting the pipeline, Obama has a chance to "make good on [his] word." <a href="http://www.tarsandsaction.org/video-release-julia-louis-dreyfus-challenges-pres-obama-stop-keystone-xl/" target="_hplink">Louis-Dreyfus asks Obama</a>, "Denying the permit for a brutally stupid, money-grab like the Keystone XL pipeline is a no-brainer, right Mr President?"
Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman
Dave Heineman, the Republican governor of Nebraska, has officially stated that he opposes the Keystone XL project. As the governor of an agrarian state through which the pipeline would pass, Heineman expressed his concern for the pipeline's threat to Nebraska's vital water resources. According to the Associated Press, "Heineman said <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/31/nebraska-governor-opposes-pipeline_n_943610.html" target="_hplink">he supports pipeline projects</a> but opposes the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL route." In August, Heineman <a href="http://www.governor.nebraska.gov/news/2011/08/31_pipeline.html" target="_hplink">sent an open letter</a> to President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton urging them to "not allow TransCanada to build a pipeline over the Ogallala Aquifer and risk the potential damage to Nebraska's water."
Actress <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000435/" target="_hplink">Daryl Hannah</a> has also lent her voice to the movement against the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/keystone-pipeline" target="_hplink">Keystone XL pipeline</a>. In August, Hannah was one of the over 1,200 people to be <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/30/daryl-hannah-arrested-keystone-protest_n_942072.html" target="_hplink">arrested as an act of civil disobedience</a> in front of the White House. Shouting "no to the Keystone pipeline" as she was handcuffed, Hannah made it clear she opposed the proposed Canada to Texas pipeline.
Maude Barlow, a Canadian author and activist and chairperson of <a href="http://www.canadians.org/" target="_hplink">The Council of Canadians</a>, was arrested in September at a Keystone pipeline and oil sands protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/09/26/ottawa-oil-sands-pipeline-protest_n_981052.html" target="_hplink">She was one of over 100 protesters</a> of the demonstration's estimated 400 to be arrested. Writing for HuffPost Canada about <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/maude-barlow/maude-barlow-arrested_b_982487.html" target="_hplink">her first experience being arrested</a>, Barlow blogged, "I did it because I fear we are killing the planet and I can no longer be content to only write and speak about it. Today my feet spoke for me as I crossed that barricade and took away one more fear in my life." She also said, "By investing trillions of dollars into these pipelines, governments and the energy industry are ensuring the continued rapid acceleration of tar sands development, instead of supporting a process to move to an alternative and sustainable energy system."
<a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001718/" target="_hplink">Kyra Sedgwick</a>, star of the television crime drama "The Closer," has voiced her opposition to the pipeline. In a video for the <a href="http://www.nrdc.org/" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Defense Council</a>, Sedgwick said "Just like the BP oil spill, one glitch in the tar sands pipeline could destroy our clean water sources, possibly forever."
Joining several other prominent actors, David Strathairn appeared in a video urging President Obama to reject the Keystone Pipeline. He calls on his fellow Americans to join the November 6 <a href="http://www.tarsandsaction.org/" target="_hplink">Tar Sands Action</a> in Washington, D.C. <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000657/" target="_hplink">Strathairn</a>, who is known for his portrayal of journalist Edward R. Murrow in "Good Night, and Good Luck," said, "Obama ran for office speaking of the dangers of our fossil fuel addiction, promising to fight climate change and fully embrace a clean energy future. The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/keystone-pipeline" target="_hplink">Keystone XL tar sands pipeline</a> is a dangerous step away from that commitment."
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