IN THE NEWS ~ Op-ed ~ The NDP position on the environment - Make the polluter pay
May 25th, 2012 - 9:06pm
|Published | Publié: 2012-05-25
Received | Reçu: 2012-05-25 5:06 PM
|NATIONAL POST | FULL COMMENT
The NDP position on the environment
Make the polluter pay
One of the greatest economic challenges facing our country, if not the greatest, is ensuring that the development of Canada's oil sands industry is done in a sustainable and responsible manner. This question will - and should - remain a key political topic for years to come.
To hear the Harper Conservatives talk over the past couple of weeks, you'd think Canadians were deeply divided. Conservatives claim that some Canadians care about the environment, while others care only about economic development - as if Canada is separated into two mutually exclusive groups. In truth, there's an overwhelming consensus among Canadians about how we should develop the wealth of our natural resources in a sustainable manner.
Canadians agree that companies should take responsibility for their impact on the environment. They understand it shouldn't be taxpayers, nor our children and future generations, who are stuck with the bill for a mess they inherited. In short, Canadians believe polluters should pay.
These principles are so universally accepted by Canadians that a recent study by the Pembina Institute found that even 96% of Albertans agree. In fact, more Canadians believe in UFOs than think polluters should be let off the hook when it comes to taking responsibility for the environmental damage they create.
Conservative pundits and commentators have had to resort to over-simplification and misrepresentation of what NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has said to prevent a serious discussion about how we develop our natural resources in a sustainable manner. They choose to try to pit region against region; when, in truth, there is widespread agreement across the country with the principle of making polluters pay.
So why the sudden false outrage from the Harper Conservatives over Mr. Mulcair's long-stated beliefs?
Part of it is pure politics. Losing support in the polls and on the defensive in the House of Commons, Stephen Harper is desperate to change the channel away from Conservative ethical scandals and the F-35 fiasco.
But that's not the only reason. While most Canadians are concerned about our environment, Tom Mulcair is emerging as an effective communicator for the idea that environmental concerns are in fact economic concerns as well.
The Harper government is handing out billions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies to the oil industry - while also allowing them to pollute our air, our land and our water free of charge. That's putting pressure on the Canadian dollar. In turn, the artificially inflated dollar is making our exports more expensive. This hurts more than just the manufacturing industry: It affects all our export industries, including the fisheries, forestry, mining and agriculture.
The Conservative approach is preventing Canada from creating high-paying, value-added jobs in the natural-resource sector. In British Columbia, Northern Ontario and Atlantic Canada, this means exporting raw logs rather than processing them here at home. In Alberta and Saskatchewan, it means exporting bitumen and crude oil rather upgrading and refining our own natural resources.
Stephen Harper thrives on the idea that Canadians are forced to choose between a strong economy and everything else of value in our society. Mr. Mulcair's positive and unifying message is one Conservatives fear will resonate and connect with Canadians.
Thomas Mulcair's approach of making polluters pay for the pollution they create restores balance to our environment and helps restore the balanced economy Canada built after the Second World War. We can build a clean and prosperous economy, and we can do it together.
Peter Julian, NDP MP for Burnaby-New Westminster, is Official Opposition Critic for Energy and Natural Resources