Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Coming Down the Pipeline

*This post has been amended from it's original content, due to SK NDP Leader Cam Broten coming out in favour of Keystone; the ** denotes the area where the editing begins.
Source: Star Phoenix: Broten Clarifies Stance on Pipeline

Source: Huffington Post: Brad Wall Accuses Thomas Mulcair Of 'Betraying' Keystone, Oilsands

Now, getting back into the swing of things with the leadership race over. I think we're going to keep the labels, as they should make the blog a bit more easy to move through, but other than that there shouldn't be any other major changes.

While the provincial NDP was busy preparing for its leadership race, Premier Brad Wall was on a major media push in the USA (along with Alberta Premier Alison Redford) to convince US lawmakers to give the final approval to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. Both Premiers have also been vocally critical of Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, believing that Mulcair has been misrepresenting facts when talking to US lawmakers.

Keep in mind, Wall and Redford were in the US to tout Canada's environmental record as a means of trying to show Canada's commitment to the environment. At no point do I remember either Premier mentioning that Saskatchewan and Alberta have seen their greenhouse gas emissions on the rise steadily since 2009 (LINK); or reports that tailing ponds for the oil sands in Alberta were leaking into adjacent ground and water (LINK) (LINK). Certainly, those two things would be things that would have to be discussed when touting a glowing environmental record...

Wall has gone so far as to claim that Mulcair is 'betraying' national interests through his accusations of Canada's abandonment of environmental concerns.

We've talked above about the provinces failing to live up to environmental standards; and we all know the federal record on this issue as well (omnibus bills to roll back water protection, 'single stamp' approval of projects that can have a major environmental impact, etc, etc, etc), and so far it would seems the facts have abandoned Premiers Wall and Redford.

But, these are two parties that have never let truth get in the way of a talking point. The facts, at least as far is science is concerned, clearly show that Canada's environmental record has been slipping and is not this sterling image that Wall and Redford were attempting to sell to US lawmakers.

Wall has even taken his attacks to new Saskatchewan NDP Leader Cam Broten, in an second attempt to tie Broten as being too close to Mulcair. Yet Wall has been more than willing to abandon Saskatchewan and stand with Stephen Harper when it serves him, so if any of our provincial party leaders is tied too closely to a federal party I think the crown goes to Wall.

** Broten's response to Wall had been to defer the decision to the idea of a triple bottom line; which referred to the idea that the NDP could support Keystone if it was environmentally viable, economically viable, and sustainable. At first, there was some ambiguity to Broten's comments (given that the argument over whether Keystone meets those conditions, regardless of National Energy Board [NEB] stamping, is still open for debate), though Broten did clarify his comments and commit to Keystone.

Given the concern that many people have over the Keystone pipeline, I'm not sure that this was the correct step to take at this moment. I get the feeling that there is a desire to define Cam as his own man (especially so close after his selection as leader) but I'd be more worried that using Keystone as that issue to prove that is a misstep.

Personally, and I caution to say this, I think this is a no-win situation that we've been cornered into. Wall has done a good job in trying to spin Keystone as necessary to Saskatchewan (again, a debatable topic) and the goal was to get the NDP to oppose it. Furthermore, I think this is an issue that could cause further trouble if brought before the NDP members in convention (given that I think many would vote down a resolution to support Keystone) and in the long run it might come back to bite Broten should the party split on this issue and vote against their leader.

Don't get me wrong, I think I understand the reasoning behind Broten's support for Keystone. The NDP is often painted by the right as being the "stunters" of business and resource development, and a rejection of Keystone would have given them more fuel for that argument. At the same time, with Wall trying to paint Broten as too close to Mulcair, there was a double-edged sword in rejecting Keystone and endorsing Mulcair's calls for an east-west pipeline instead for development.

However, even if it increased cries of closeness to Mulcair, I think the right path to take would have been the endorsement of an east-west pipeline instead. There was the chance that Wall would use that as further ammo to show Broten is too close to the Federal NDP; but at the same time, it will generate an opportunity to Broten to talk about how an east-west pipeline would create more jobs in Saskatchewan than the Keystone pipeline would (in both construction, and in the goal to create more refinery options in Canada which produces further long term job opportunities in oil rich provinces, like Saskatchewan).

By framing the argument around the creation of jobs, Broten would have been able to make a sound case for opposing Keystone; while highlighting the fact that Keystone would benefit Alberta and the US more than Saskatchewan. It's a good policy issue to challenge Wall on, and if played right, it should at least make Wall look out of touch and more concerned with helping Alberta than his own province. Not only that, but it would have shown that the NDP strongly supports developing Saskatchewan's resources in a manner that would truly increase jobs in the province.

As it stands, the entire Keystone issue seems designed as a poison pill that had consequences either way the NDP decided to go with it in the province. I'm still not sure Broten could convince the party to support Keystone, and do worry that if it came down to a vote for party policy it would be rejected by the membership. In the long run, it would have been better to be accused of being too close to Mulcair than to risk looking out of control of the party.

Of course, if the Obama Administration rejects Keystone (which could still happen), then it becomes a zero sum issue for Broten and he'll get to avoid any tricky problems of party members not seeing eye-to-eye on this issue.

Though, that makes this sound as though it was a calculated political gamble than an actual decision. I can't speak one way or the other as to whether that is the case, as I'm not involved in those sort of decision making processes, but I would certainly hope that it isn't just a throw of the dice on opens that the Americans will shoot down Keystone.


Anonymous said...

Ah, but then today Broten came out in favour of Keystone...

Scott said...

Yes, I saw that this morning. Obviously, I'm going to have to update/edit the post to reflect that, though I will likely have to completely rewrite the section.

Scott said...

And the rewrite is complete.

Anonymous said...


Thomas Mulcair is in favour of a pipeline. It just happens to be one that flows west to east. It's a pipeline that produces more jobs in Canada and secures our nation-wide energy security.

Brad Wall isn't actually in favour of a "pipeline". He's just helping those "firewall"-loving Conservatives further cripple Canada.

The Americans have ample reserves of their own and are about to become our competitors in the energy-export market. Brad Wall can't wait to hand them our resources & jobs.

IMO, we should roll our eyes at Broten - but eventually forgive him. He hasn't put on a skirt & danced with pom-pom's like Brad Wall has. He simply out-sourced his decision to the National Energy Board.

In the future, Saskatchewan New Democrat's should work to educate their leader & province on the national security & economic advantages in retaining our resources:

Dan Tan

Scott said...

Thanks for the comment Dan;

I did note that Mulcair favours an east-west pipeline; and that a pipeline of that measure would be a better economic boon for Saskatchewan then Keystone.

And I can't agree with you more about Wall's cheerleading on the subject; Keystone is not the boon to Saskatchewan he is trying to sell it as, and the alternatives proposed by people like Thomas Mulcair will create a better economic situation for Saskatchewan, as well as increasing the odds of developing local refinery capacities that will generate more long term and stable jobs.

I think most party members will be willing to move on and forgive Broten for endorsing Keystone, especially if the US pull the plug on the project; but I do worry that while we're still calling for unity after the leadership race, this move will turn off most (if not all) environmentally minded NDP members.

It's not a great move fresh out of the gate; but, depending on how Keystone goes, this entire thing could become a non-issue.

Anonymous said...

To Scott & all,

Forgive my dismissal of your mention, Scott. I was previewing the theme of any future information campaign - for the benefit of our members.

IMO, Broten's decision looks to be the result of human tragedy - rather than malice.

Right after his victory, Broten was asked about pipelines - in general. He offered a general response in favour (for all we know, his intent could have been to endorse Thomas Mulcair's pipeline vision). But later on, as the question grew more specific & focused on KeyStone...he attempted to out-source any commitment to our regulatory bodies. When the out-sourced entity returned with a decision...Broten found himself trapped & had to commit.

If we members understand Broten's circumstances, we should understand the opportunities available to the membership.

It is not enough to merely oppose Keystone for the sake of the environment. The public and government do not care - and will ignore any myopic approach in that regard (despite the righteousness of your opposition).

Rather, NDP members have the opportunity to highlight the superiority of the NDP-sponsored pipeline that provides far greater national security, employment, and environmental benefits. Oh, and it is a pipeline that already has provincial and industry support.

If such a campaign is undertaken with vigour, the public will quickly understand that Brad Wall is an ideologue bent on EXPORTING JOBS & AIDING OUR ECONOMIC COMPETITORS. They will appreciate the promise of long-term domestic employment, sustainable resource exploitation, and widespread security benefits.

So put away your pouty faces and get to work supporting the NDP's pro-Canadian pipeline. Reject Brad Wall's out-sourcing obsession.

Dan Tan

Purple library guy said...

This is all fine for now Scott & Dan, but . . . what if it happens again?

First thing the guy does out of the gate is cave in to Wall's bullying, let Wall define the frame. This isn't something that looks good to the NDP base or makes one confident in his ideology. But beyond that, it does not bode well for his ability to take Wall on. He'd better not show gutless the next time he's challenged. If he does much more of this kind of thing you Saskers may need to give the next election up as lost and start organizing the grassroots for making sure the next leader has some cojones.