Protesters interrupted NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's Toronto book launch Monday to press him for a position on the Energy East pipeline, one day after he was dogged by questions about oilsands on the campaign trail.
Mulcair was reading passages from his autobiography, Strength of Conviction, when a couple of people stood up and unfurled banners and shouted "Stop Energy East."
"If it is found to be incompatible with national action on climate change, will you say no to the pipeline?" one protester yelled as he was gently escorted out of the room by Mulcair's security detail.
"Of course we will," Mulcair replied. "That's what the whole purpose of coming in with a new system is: to make sure that we take into account climate change whenever we analyze a project."
Both Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau have said they don't trust the current federal pipeline review process and would introduce what they call stricter and more thorough analyses of proposed energy projects.
TransCanada's Energy East pipeline is particularly sensitive because the pipeline's projected route goes through several provinces.
Protester later poses with Mulcair
The disruption was brief and relatively amicable; at least one of the protesters reappeared during the book-signing portion of Mulcair's event to pose for a photo with the NDP leader.
"We do care about Energy East," the woman told Mulcair as she smiled and posed with her arm around him.
Mulcair's team pointed out that their events are open to the public, unlike those of Stephen Harper.
The NDP leader himself noted at a similar event in Montreal Monday evening that the protester who posed for the photo must have been satisfied with his response. He said the protester also bought a book and asked him to sign it.
The NDP leader says the book is meant to reach out to Canadians that don't know him very well especially outside of Quebec where Mulcair built a high profile for more than three decades as a lawyer and provincial politician. The launch date was planned before the federal election was called last weekend.
The book launch interrupted by the protesters happened to be taking place in the Toronto Centre riding where author Linda McQuaig is running for the New Democrats.
Mulcair was forced Sunday to address comments she made on CBC News Network's Power & Politics, where she said curbing oilsands production might be necessary for Canada to meet its environmental targets.
Mulcair brushed off the flap by repeating his party's position that the NDP supports developing natural resources and creating markets for them as long as there is rigorous environmental review and safeguards are in place.
While Mulcair did not take questions at the Toronto event, he spoke with reporters later in Montreal and was asked how it was possible to support expansion of the oilsands and build pipelines while meeting environmental targets.
"Well, it is possible by doing what we've been saying for some time: We have to put in place a credible, thorough environmental assessment process that includes Canada's obligation to reduce greenhouse gasses and of course therefore deal with the very real problem of global warming," Mulcair said.
"Mr. Harper thought he was going to be helping these oil companies by gutting the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Fisheries Act. He thought he was helping them. But in fact, as we all know, not one of those projects has gotten off the drawing board.
"So what we propose to do is to put in place a credible, thorough system of environmental assessment that includes greenhouse gases and Canada's international obligations," Mulcair said.
McQuaig was not at Mulcair's book launch in her riding. A Mulcair staffer noted the event was organized by his publisher, Dundurn Press, and not the party.