EDMONTON — It is dangerous to suggest the controversial proposed policy road map known as the "Leap Manifesto" advocates the shutdown of Alberta's oilsands, Tom Mulcair said Friday as the party's convention got underway in Edmonton.
The embattled New Democrat leader said that's not his view of the document — a linchpin in the ongoing tug-of-war over Mulcair's leadership, provincial NDP fortunes in Alberta and the future of the federal party.
Nearly two dozen NDP riding associations are pushing for the party to embrace and debate the non-partisan document, a call to return the party to its left-wing roots that urges — among other things — an end to Canada's dependence on fossil fuels.
On Sunday, a joint resolution from the ridings of Toronto-Danforth and Vancouver East calling for a future debate on the policies contained within in the manifesto will face a vote on the convention floor.
"I think it is ... dangerous to caricature the Leap document as being something about shutting things down," Mulcair said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Thomas Mulcair and his wife, Catherine Pinhas, take part during the 2016 NDP Federal Convention in Edmonton, April 8, 2016. (Photo: Codie McLachlan/CP)
"We've got to stop fooling ourselves in Canada. It is not true that we are doing our share on climate change. We've never reduced our greenhouse gas emissions. That's why the Leap document is so important.
"What they're saying is, going forward, we have to take a whole new approach if we actually want to get to the point where we reduce greenhouse gas emissions and we can come to terms and deal with climate change. That's what it is saying."
Mulcair also stressed he has never suggested oil should stay in the ground — an expression he noted is never used in the document, which calls for a swift transition away from fossil fuels, rejecting new pipeline projects and an upending of the capitalist system on which the Canadian economy is based.
The document, which has a wide range of supporters including actors, labour unions and environmentalists, was first unveiled in September during the federal election campaign.
It is fundamentally untrue that Canadians have to choose between development and tackling climate change, Mulcair said.
"I've always understood that sustainable development means applying rules like polluter-pay, like user-pay."
"It is not true that that's the choice, and I've never suggested that," Mulcair said. "I've always understood that sustainable development means applying rules like polluter-pay, like user-pay."
The country's natural resources are a blessing that need to be developed responsibly, he added.
Avi Lewis, one of the key drivers behind the manifesto, said the proposal acknowledges scientific consensus — that Canada has to get off fossil fuels by 2050.
The words "leave oil in the ground" do not appear in the document, he added.
"Nowhere does it talk about shutting down things or taking away peoples' jobs," Lewis said.
"It is very forthright that we must transition off fossil fuels starting yesterday and the opportunities in that transition are vast.
"I'm not offering you opinions, I'm describing scientific realities and so, as a species, we have a reckoning coming ... George W. Bush said in the 2000s that America was addicted to oil and had to get off it. I don't why this is being treated as a controversial position."
On Thursday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley used a televised address to say every Canadian benefits from a strong energy sector, which demands that building a modern and carefully regulated pipeline to tidewater be top priority.
"(Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau said he would come up with a plan to meet our international targets and he hasn't done that."
"We have to develop (resources) responsibly and for the first time in Canadian history, the province of Alberta has got a plan to start doing its part," Mulcair said.
"(Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau said he would come up with a plan to meet our international targets and he hasn't done that.
"Alberta has done its share. It's already shown that it is willing to do things that no previous government is willing to do."