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THE SALON

The Salon is ONW's weekly gathering place where three of Canada's brightest and most respected political strategists - Rick Anderson, Anne McGrath and Richard Mahoney - come together to analyze national issues affecting Ontario.


Rick Anderson:

Lots of Canadians sitting on the edge of their seats this spring, wondering whether President Obama is finally going to say yes to the Keystone pipeline after all these years of positive reviews. Thanks to the US pipeline bottleneck, Canada's oil is being sold in the states at a substantial discount to the world price, costing Canadians and our government billions of dollars... I'm quite shocked, frankly, that NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair - who has been pretty sure-footed on many topics - thought it wise to go to DC recently and disparage Canada's environmental record, and accuse Canada of playing America "for fools."

 

Richard Mahoney:

Pipelines are a great example of where things have got to in North America. We are all huge consumers of energy - we are really good at using it, just not as good at approving new projects with the means of producing/transporting it. And that is true with all forms of energy, renewable and non-renewable. That said, Keystone may well be one of those projects that gets the ok - an environmental assessment process has been followed, the route was changed as a result of inputs into that process, and I predict President Obama is going to approve it. What would be great is if that approval was balanced by an equal commitment to moving the US towards renewable alternatives. But I won't hold my breath...

 

Anne McGrath:

Lots of ambivalence to go around here. I understand why the Conservatives put Minister Oliver out on this but the message is muddled. On the one hand, he criticizes Tom Mulcair for going to Washington and criticizing the export of raw bitumen and jobs. On the other, he calls for him to be more forceful in his criticism. Tom was clear that he wasn't there to fight on Keystone. A responsible position in my opinion.

 

Rick Anderson:

What was he there to fight on? Keystone is the main bilateral issue these days, very important to Canada's interests (also America's). Mulcair bought into the disingenuous line taken by some who - wrongly - claim that Canada's GHG (greenhouse gas) record is inferior to America's. Our GHG reduction goals are identical at 17%, our vehicle emission regulations completely harmonized, and Canada is ahead in shifting away from coal-fired electricity generation... Whatever was Mulcair thinking, playing partisan politics with these loose facts and Canada's interests?

 

Richard Mahoney:

Most of our move away from coal has happened in Ontario, and has been opposed by Conservatives here. I am not sure Mulcair's visit to Washington was a political success but he is right to criticize the Harper record on climate change: abysmal. Harper started out as PM as a climate change denier. He briefly reconsidered for political reasons, but has ignored the issue, provided little leadership, other than to proudly renounce our commitment to Kyoto.

 

Rick Anderson:

Is Richard actually trumpeting the Ontario's government's on-again off-again coal replacement program???? What's the taxpayer bill for those politically-cancelled gas plants??


Anne McGrath:

Canada is woefully out of step with the global direction on climate change and there is a stark divide between the messages coming from the US administration, our closest trading partner, and our government as it trumpets its rejection of global climate change agreements. This is a case of putting the cut and thrust of the daily political fight ahead to common sense. Backing off previous support of cap and trade only to have a hammer for the NDP in Question Period is short sighted at best.

 

Rick Anderson:

It is not quite honest to call it a global movement, at least not as regards Kyoto. Asia never was part of it, and North America only nominally (the Americans never ratified the agreement, and we pulled out). As everyone here knows, the position of the Canadian government is that we must stay in lockstep with our major economic partner, and that is what we are doing. Both Canada and the States have since adopted similar GHG reduction goals. PM Harper has said our government will continue to match measures adopted by the States. In the meantime, oil is Canada's number one export (2x automobiles) and there is a serious infrastructure bottleneck that is damaging Canadians' interests. Recently the U.S. State Department pointed out that Keystone would actually lessen carbon emissions by substituting pipeline transmission for oil imported from overseas by tanker.

 

Richard Mahoney:

Pipelines are energy facts of life, as are other forms of energy production and transportation. It is a fact that, as a result of the Liberal government in Ontario, the bulk of our coal-fired generation has been closed off, and our air quality is the better for it, as is the climate. It is also a fact that as we move towards new forms of generation to replace coal, whether it is wind, or solar, gas or nuclear, there will be opposition to placing any kind of generation anywhere near people. Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak, NDP leader Andrea Horwath, and all sorts of different players urged the government to cancel the gas plants, and now criticize the government for so doing. How do we get an adult conversation going about how much energy we use, and how we will produce it/transport it?

 

Anne McGrath:

President Obama made action on climate change a central part of his agenda for the second term. Whether he approves Keystone or not (and I happen to believe he will approve it,) there is a sense that the Canadian government is offside. I think it's because the short term and petty attacks on the NDP are getting in the way. The government should heed the advice of Preston Manning when he says that this is a weakness in the Conservative body politic.  


Rick Anderson:

Pipelines aren't just a fact of life they're a safe fact of life. As in: a 99.9996% safety record:

http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/node/2248#h-3-2

As the saying goes, people are certainly entitled to their own points of view, but they are not entitled to their own facts. Distorting Canada's record - be it on the environment or on pipeline safety is not an honest way to pursue your political agenda, and when Canadian (and American) jobs are at stake it's downright irresponsible.

 

Richard Mahoney:

Anne, that Preston Manning point is gold, and he is right. Somehow we need to balance these things better than we have, and better than this government has done. As pipelines are approved, and oil and gas production continue, we need to build incentives for all of us to move to alternative sources, cleaner sources, renewable sources. I think that is what Manning is saying: you can be responsible on oil and gas production, and move to a balanced, responsible environmental record. For whatever reason, our Prime Minister has that balance wrong. He could do worse than listen to his old boss.


Anne McGrath:

It's not just wishful thinking to believe that balance is possible. I agree with Rick that pipelines can be safe and economical. That's why the NDP support for a west-east pipeline to protect Canadian energy security makes good sense. The US is clearly paying attention to their domestic energy security and will soon be able to supply its own needs, according to the International Energy Agency. Canada needs to move off the government's simplistic talking points and talk seriously about energy security and the environment in a balanced way.


You can follow The Salon's strategists on Twitter:

Rick Anderson: @RickAnderson

Anne McGrath: @OttawaAnne

Richard Mahoney: @RicMahoney

About The Salon (Anderson, Mcgrath, Mahoney)

Rick Anderson is former senior advisor to Reform Party Opposition leader Preston Manning; Anne McGrath was Chief of Staff to the late NDP leader Jack Layton; and Richard Mahoney, former Liberal advisor to Rt. Hon. Paul Martin.
Posted date : March 20, 2013

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