by Lorne Gunter
Thomas (call me “Tom”) Mulcair, leader of the federal NDP, will be in Alberta today. But, he assures us, he has not come to disparage our region.
Rather, he claims, he is here to explain to us the need for Ottawa to intervene in oilsands development to protect the environment.
He has also promised to share with us the Quebec model for sustainable development that he helped devise when he was the Liberal environment minister there.
Monday, during a scrum on Parliament Hill following question period, Mulcair repeated his line that his recent attacks on resource development were not an attack on the West, or Alberta in particular.
Yeah, right. Like if I were to tell you you’re lousy at your job, your house is a sty, your wife is a skank and your kids are delinquents, but insist I’m not criticizing you or your family.
“The most important element for us in going out there is to talk about the sustainable development of all of our natural resources but of course, in particular, there’s the oilsands,” Mulcair told reporters. He said his message is about “maintaining the equilibrium” between the prosperity of the West and the economies of central Canada.
And, he added, “It’s about the enforcement of federal legislation … the Navigable Waters Act, the Fisheries Act, migratory birds, not looking at cumulative health effects, not looking at groundwater, not monitoring the water in any way shape or form.”
Oh, I see. You mean the way the federal government is always intervening in Quebec to enforce federal law.
If Mulcair wants to understand how ham-fisted his remarks have sounded these past few weeks, he should play a round of Shoe on the Other Foot.
How would he react to some preachy opposition leader from Western Canada showing up in his home province of Quebec full of sanctimony about how that province should be managing its economy?
I imagine that even though Ottawa has a legitimate role in enforcing federal environmental regulations on, say, Quebec’s James Bay hydro project and open-pit asbestos mines, Mulcair would be among the first to stand up and demand the feds honour provincial autonomy and leave poor Quebec alone.
Mulcair has already declared himself against the federal Clarity Act, for instance, the Chretien-era legislation that would require Quebec separatists to win a clear majority of the vote on a clear question in any province-wide referendum on sovereignty. What would he think, then, if the next federal leader of the opposition were from the West and took it upon him- or herself to travel to Quebec and lecture politicians and the populace on Ottawa’s obligation to enforce federal law in the fight for independence?
And Mulcair’s contention that Quebec’s model of sustainable development can be reproduced elsewhere is laughable.
The only reason Quebec can afford not to develop its natural resources is that the rest of the country pays the Quebec government $8-10 billion annually in equalization. Without that money, Quebec doesn’t have the tax base on its own to afford its lavish social programs, such as cheap daycare and low university and college tuition.
So, welcome Mr. Mulcair. But don’t be surprised if we’re too busy being self-sufficient to listen to your uninformed, hypocritical, holier-than-thou message.