We’ve been learning a lot about Thomas Mulcair from the federal NDP leader’s trip to the U.S. this week.

First he told Americans the Conservatives are “playing people for fools” by claiming to care about the environment. In reality, he said, their record is terrible, they’ve “gutted” environmental assessments for energy projects, and climate change is way down their list of priorities — if it’s on the list at all.

He said he agreed with an editorial in the New York Times that urged President Barack Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project.
“In the U.S. people know how to read,” he said in an interview. “They know that Canada is the only country that has withdrawn from Kyoto. They know that the Conservatives can’t possibly meet their Copenhagen targets (on greenhouse gas emissions) precisely because of the oilsands. They have to stop playing people for fools.”
Moving on to New York, Mr. Mulcair told interviewers at Bloomberg News that, if elected to head an NDP government, he wouldn’t raise personal taxes but would hike corporate taxes and spend the money on social programs. The biggest beneficiaries of the Tories’ steady reduction of corporate taxes, he said, “are the oil companies and the banks who didn’t ask for it and don’t need it,” telling Bloomberg the Conservatives have “gutted the fiscal capacity of the state and we’re still running very, very high deficits.”

Just in case anyone got the impression he’s a tax-and-spend leftwinger with a hate on for the oil business, however, he explained that he is in fact a friend of Big Oil, and would do right by the pipeline people, as well.
A New Democratic Party government would do a better job gaining public acceptance for infrastructure projects like new pipelines because it would enforce a more credible environmental review process, Mulcair said in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York.
“I’m claiming that the NDP would be better for anybody who wants to develop any natural resources because we would put in place, and we’d maintain and we’d enforce a credible, thorough assessment process,” Mulcair said. “You want to get people onside if you want to move product to market. That’s what’s missing.”
In one of his earlier discussions, Mr. Mulcair had argued that the Keystone project “represents the export of 40,000 jobs and we think that is a bad thing for Canada,” and that “we are still going to need the energy supply to heat our homes and run our factories, whether it comes from the oilsands or it comes in the from natural gas. Fossil fuels are always going to be part of the mix.”

Back at Bloomberg, he pledged not to raise taxes on high-income earners — “It’s never been my policy and it never will be” — and to keep sales taxes unchanged because higher taxes hurt the poor.

It was quite a tour de force, and hard to digest if one is looking for consistency and clarity.

Take Keystone: the NDP leader argues that the U.S. should kill the proposal because it’s bad for the environment, but feels it would be good for Canada because it would create jobs and provide energy security. He notes that Canada withdrew from Kyoto but ignores (or didn’t know) that the U.S. never ratified it in the first place. He claims to be a friend to the energy business because the NDP has stronger environmental credentials, ignoring the fact the environmental movement has dedicated itself to shutting the oilsands, or doing as much damage as it can manage. He argues his party is better positioned to gain acceptance for infrastructure projects, while simultaneously denouncing the two most important such projects — Keystone and the Northern Gateway pipeline — currently on the agenda. And he professes to recognize that higher taxes are harmful to people, while arguing they can be raised with impunity on businesses (which employ many of those same people.)

It’s also curious that he claims Keystone would export 40,000 jobs to the U.S., even though one of its critics’ main arguments is that very few jobs would in fact be created.

If you find this all confusing, you’re not alone. Bloomberg quoted a Toronto investment manager noting: “The big obstacle to infrastructure is the environmental movement, so I don’t know how you square the circle,” and Alberta Premier Alison Redford, arguing that Mulcair “continues to put politics ahead of fact, betraying the economic interests of all Canadians.”

Does Mr. Mulcair think Americans, or Canadians for that matter, will buy his position? You have to wonder whether he believes it himself, and how he explains the obvious contradictions. How can a pipeline be bad for the U.S. but good for Canada, an environmental disaster in one country but a job-creator in another, backed by a friend of the oil industry who supports the oil industry’s worst enemies?

The NDP has always been more about emotion than reason, wishful thinking versus harsh reality. Mr. Mulcair, despite his claims, seems to be firmly embedded in that tradition.

Source: National Post

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