NDP leader considers Northern Gateway pipeline dead

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair supports the idea of refining Alberta's oil in Canada instead of shipping the crude to Kitimat, B.C., and then on to Asia, as would be the case with Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project — which he calls a "non-starter."

New Democrats prepared to start a provincial party in Quebec

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says he supports the idea of refining Alberta's oil in Canada instead of shipping crude to Kitimat, B.C., and then on to Asia, as would be the case with Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project — which he calls a "non-starter."

In an interview that aired Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, the leader of the Official Opposition told guest host Chris Hall he supports the overall idea "of adding the value in Canada, developing, upgrading, processing, refining our own natural resources here."

On Friday, B.C. community newspaper tycoon David Black proposed building a $13-billion oil refinery near Kitimat to process all of the crude from Enbridge's controversial Northern Gateway pipeline.

"So whether it's that idea of having more refining capacity on the B.C. coast or what we've talked about, which is to move some of the bitumen in those pipelines, moving it east. Maybe that's a win-win situation," Mulcair said.

"We can start taking care of our own energy security — add the jobs in Canada instead of shipping both the bitumen and the jobs to the U.S. raw," he said.

As for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, Mulcair thinks the project is dead, especially after a U.S. government report looking into an Enbridge oil spill in Michigan found there was a "complete breakdown of safety at Enbridge" and that employees at Enbridge acted like the "Keystone Kops," failing to quickly recognize the pipeline had ruptured and continuing to pump oil into the surrounding area.

"That was probably the last nail in the coffin," said Mulcair, recalling his reaction to hearing the "Keystone Kops" label.

Mulcair also took aim at Prime Minister Stephen Harper, suggesting his approach to sustainable development is failing.

"Mr. Harper seems to, over the summer, to have discovered the merits of science. The problem is he keeps firing his scientists and the ones he doesn't fire, he's muzzling.

"So if we can at least come up with a common understanding and use the highest level of environmental assessment and get the best results then maybe these things can move forward in other places, but the Northern Gateway, I think, is a non-starter," Mulcair said.

While speaking with reporters after an announcement in B.C. last week, the prime minister said science, not politics, would decide the fate of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

Last month, B.C. Premier Christy Clark vowed to oppose the proposed pipeline project if the federal government and the province of Alberta didn't meet B.C.'s specific conditions, including getting a "fair share" share of the economic benefits.

When asked whether a possible alliance with Clark were possible, Mulcair said he will be working closely with Adrian Dix, the leader the B.C. NDP, to defeat Clark and her Liberal B.C. government in next year's provincial election.

"I'm going to be working very closely with Adrian Dix, the extraordinary leader of the NDP in B.C., to make sure the NDP forms a strong, progressive government in B.C."

Although NDP support is strong in B.C., the party holds only three seats in the Prairies.

This week, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall let it be known he had not forgotten Mulcair's diagnosis that the Canadian economy is suffering from a case of Dutch Disease, in which sales of natural resources increase the value of the dollar, hurting manufacturing through declining exports.

On Thursday, Wall tweeted: "Sask manufacturing up and leading the nation. Canada's up year over year 6.9%. That's quite a case of Dutch Disease."

Mulcair stood by his comments, saying he had not hurt the party in the Prairies and that the New Democrats intended to win "lots of seats" there in the next federal election.

"What we have talked about in the beginning is that we haven't been applying the basic rules of sustainable development, like polluter pay.  We've been giving them a free ride. A whole series of statutes are not being enforced — the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Act, Migratory Birds [Convention Act] and so on. So instead of making the companies change their practices to respect the law, Mr. Harper is changing the laws to make it correspond to the practices. That's been his approach.

"What we're also saying is that because we're not internalizing those costs — we're not including them — we're bringing in an artificially high number of U.S. dollars. And all other statistics aside, we do know that since the Conservatives came to power in 2006, we've lost 500,000 good paying manufacturing jobs. Several hundred thousands of those were lost as a direct result of the artificially high U.S. dollar."

NDP eyes Quebec election

It's no secret that Mulcair has asked his NDP MPs and their staffers not to wade in to the Quebec election, just as he asked them to stay out of the Quebec student protests in the past few months.

But with a majority of federal seats in that province and his Quebec caucus being the youngest in federal history, Mulcair was asked whether the NDP could stay mum on an election that could have a profound impact on federal politics.

"I'm not going to start wading in on a provincial campaign where we are not playing a role. My job is to work with whoever is going to be chosen," he said.

However, Mulcair said, that could all change in the next three to four years and that Quebecers "can be sure that the NDP will be running in the next provincial election in Quebec — and that will change things, of course."

Even with the possibility of a sovereigntist government returning to power and Canadians looking to see what federal leader would best handle the situation, Mulcair vowed to stay out of the Quebec election.

"My track record is clear — people know that I'm a strong federalist. I fought the 1980 referendum, but I also fought in the 1995 referendum. Quebec City is a very tough neighbourhood to practise politics when you are a federalist, but I stood up for Canada and I'll continue to do that," he said. "That'll always be my vision."

The NDP believes a simple majority, 50 per cent plus one vote, is enough to decide a future Quebec referendum.