J’accuse! Thomas Mulcair’s treason and the Keystone XL Pipeline.

"Treason" was one of the accusations used against NDP leader Thomas Mulcair after be voiced his opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington D.C.
“Treason” was one of the accusations used against NDP leader Thomas Mulcair after be voiced his opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington D.C.

The rhetoric is running high this week with President Barack Obama expected to soon decide the fate of the controversial TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline.

In Washington D.C. last week, federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair criticized the pipeline that would ship bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to refineries in Texas. Mr. Mulcair also took the opportunity to criticize the deconstruction of Canada’s environmental regulations by Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s Conservative government and told the media that the pipeline would export jobs from Cnaada and would pose a threat to our country’s energy security. Mr. Muclair’s treasonous words were printed in the National Post:

“According to object 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 from natural gas. Fossil fuels are always going to be part of the mix.”

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair

If you do not find these words abhorrent and treasonous, you may be surprised by the whiplash reaction from Mr. Mulcair’s political opponents.

In Alberta, where a political consensus is tilting towards approval of the pipeline, Premier Alison Redford took to the floor of the Legislative Assembly to attack Mr. Mulcair and NDP leader Brian Mason for their opposition to the pipeline.

Treason” was the word Mark Cooper, the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister’s Press Secretary, used on twitter this week to describe the NDP position on the pipeline. While his tweet should be taken somewhat in jest, that word set the tone for the pipeline debate this week.

On the floor of the Assembly, Energy Minister Ken Hughes criticized the NDP by boasting about having created a  “coalition of the willing” in support of the Keystone XL pipeline. Minister Hughes’ comment was an unfortunate reference to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, which marked its ten year anniversary this week.

Ken Hughes
Ken Hughes

Mr. Mason was more than happy to pull quotes from recently deceased former Premier Peter Lougheed, who voiced his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline in favour of refining bitumen in Alberta. This happens to be close to the NDP position.

This is not a clear left/right issue. Prominent labour unions, including the AFL-CIO in the United States, have voiced their support for the pipeline for the jobs it would create in the bitumen refineries in Texas. Pipeline critics, like Alberta Federation of Labour‘s Gil McGowan, argue that refining oilsands bitumen in Alberta would create more jobs in-province.

Also joining the debate is former Premier Ed Stelmach, who spoke in favour of local refining today telling the Edmonton Journal “…it is in our interest to promote as much pipeline capacity as possible to move products to existing markets, and of course, new markets. But to close that differential in price, we need to sell a higher-value product.”

Premier Alison Redford
Premier Alison Redford

To the east in Saskatchewan, the partisan divide over the Keystone XL Pipeline in not so sharp. Premier Brad Wall, the province’s most popular leader since Tommy Douglas, has trumpeted the benefits the Keystone XL Pipeline could bring to Canadian and American economies. His main opponent, newly selected Saskatchewan NDP leader Cam Broten, has broken from his NDP colleagues and given his timid support for the pipeline’s construction.

The Alberta government purchased a $30,000 advertisement in the Sunday edition of the New York Times. While widely read, the ad was meant to respond to an anti-Keystone XL editorial widely circulated on the internet. The factual arguments made by the Alberta Government in the ad will likely fall flat in this highly emotional debate. While the ad generated significant earned media in Alberta, this one-time ad-buy will likely have little impact on the large debate happening in the United States.

Recognizing that Conservative Parties are seen by many Canadians as ‘weak’ on the environmental issues related to pipeline construction, the Conservative movement is putting significant energy toward finding the key messaging needed to convince Canadians otherwise.

At last week’s Preston Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa, speakers presented their analysis of the Oilsands Pipeline debate. As blogger David Climenhaga wrote, “the most creative minds in Canadian conservatism are applying their brainpower to moving forward pipeline projects – extending from Alberta, the centre of their political and economic universe, to all points of the compass.”

More on this later.

7 thoughts on “J’accuse! Thomas Mulcair’s treason and the Keystone XL Pipeline.”

  1. It continues to amaze me that no where in this debate do you hear mention of the Valero Energy Corporation,

    Valero is the largest exporter of refined oil products in the United States and is the prime mover and shaker behind Keystone. Without Valero, this project would never have gotten off the drawing board.

    It has made no secret of its plans to pipe Alberta bitumen down to its Texas Gulf refineries and then off to middle refineries on the Isle of Wright, eventually selling the final product as diesel in Europe and South America.

    Even though Canadian politicians and pipeline companies have been shoved onto the center stage in this debate, they are just bit players.

    The real battle is between Valero’s goals and the thousands of land owners in the mid-US who will have their property rights trampled upon.

  2. Many politicians are throwing the ‘treason’ label around, but it never seems to stick where it should.

    The politicians are a sideshow. The rich people want to dig bitumen and pipe dilbit in any way that will lead to their further enrichment. Short of a popular revolt, they will get their way.

  3. Redford has just embarrassed herself and played right into the NDP’s hands with her over-the-top rhetoric.

    Every time her government screams treason, it get’s the NDP position out in the media. And you know what? A lot of people agree with the NDP on this. Peter Lougheed wasn’t the only Albertan against shipping raw bitumen (and hundreds of thousands of jobs) out of the country. All Redford is doing is amplifying the face she’s out of step with a large proportion of Albertans on the subject.

    I bet the NDP is all smiles. Redford has made their major wedge issue front page news. Wildrose is identical to the PCs on the issue, and Raj Sherman seems scared to talk about it, so Brian Mason has the ‘keep the jobs here’ position all to himself.

  4. The problem is that he undermined all the Premier’s efforts; it’s a colossal waste of taxpayer money and it’s fully his fault. If he thinks otherwise then he should get elected, form government, and have things his way. Until then, the current government is acting on its mandate from Canadians and he should respect that.

  5. Treason is a harsh word to toss around in the political arena. I’m reading a book right now about the 1891 election, in which the Liberal party was accused of treason by the Conservatives and Sir John A. himself, in relation to allegations that certain Liberal “loose cannons” were actually in favour of annexation of Canada to the US, in an election campaign being fought around free trade, or “unrestricted reciprocity” as it was then called.

    Interestingly, for those of us today who remember the Turner-Mulroney debates in the 1990s, it was the Liberals that were advocating free trade; Macdonald’s “Liberal-Conservative” party was advocating the protectionist National Policy. Indeed, in the years leading up to that election, some Liberals were even in favour of “commercial union”, which would remove all customs posts between the US & Canada, much like today’s European Union has done. However, many Canadians at the time feared that commercial union would lead inevitably to annexation, and so the Liberals had backed off of that idea in favour of free trade in both natural products and manufactured goods.

    However, a few people on the fringe of the Liberal party went further, providing American politicians advice to be intransigent on trade issues, in an effort to put economic pressure on Canadians to join the US; when these discussions came to light, the Macdonald campaign shouted “treason” from the rooftops. Macdonald went on to win that election, but he had fought his last campaign; he died later that year.

  6. Alison Redford is a shill for oil companies, not a leader. It’s embarrassing the way she runs around for big oil. After 40+ years of power, the PCs of Alberta have lost all sense of what it means to govern in their citizens interest.

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