2013 12 04
A new vision for a new century. Our plan for a prosperous and sustainable energy future.
Speech by Tom Mulcair to the Economic Club of Canada

Thank you very much for that kind introduction.

The first time I spoke at the Economic Club here in Ottawa was in April, 2012, just weeks after becoming Leader of the New Democratic Party and Leader of the Official Opposition.

Back then, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were proudly trumpeting their 2012 federal budget and its signature achievement—the elimination of the penny.

Well, today the penny is gone, and so are the trumpets.

Today, Ottawa is consumed by stories of scandal, resignations and criminal investigations.

We now know, by the way, why Stephen Harper stopped talking about that $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright. It turns out Nigel Wright bought Mike Duffy's silence with 9 million discontinued pennies.

It’s always tough when you buy something and it just doesn’t turn out the way you’d hoped.

But today we’re here to talk about an issue with more substance than either pennies, or Senators.

Today I’d like to talk about the NDP’s vision for building a sustainable, balanced and prosperous energy future in the 21st century.

Canada’s natural resources are a tremendous blessing, and our energy sector is the motor of the Canadian economy.

New Democrats want to capitalize on those unique advantages.

To create high quality, middle-class jobs.

To harness the full potential of Canada’s natural gifts.

And to maximize the benefits of development for all Canadians.

That development is vital to our economy and our country.

But the reality is that resource development can only move forward if development is done responsibly.

If we’re going to seize the opportunities ahead.

If we’re going to leverage our resources to create wealth and prosperity for generations to come.

Then we’re going to have to rise to meet new challenges and adapt to the new realities of a new century.

And New Democrats have a vision that does just that.

A vision that promotes economic growth without sacrificing social or environmental sustainability.

One that looks to the future instead of clinging to the past.

And one that creates lasting prosperity instead of feeding an endless cycle of boom and bust.

Our vision is based on three key principles:

Sustainability, to make sure that polluters pay for the pollution they create instead of leaving those costs to the next generation.

Partnership, to make sure that communities, provinces and First Nations all benefit from resource development and that we create value-added, middle-class jobs here in Canada.

And, most importantly, long-term prosperity, that leverages our natural resource wealth to invest in modern, clean energy technology that will keep Canada on the cutting edge of energy development and ensure affordable energy rates into the future.

For far too long, Canadians have been told they have to choose.

Choose between our economy and our environment.

But this is a false choice.

It’s an approach that’s stuck in the past.

Just last April, government documents revealed the very real economic costs of the environmental cleanup for the Giant Mine at Great Slave Lake.

They’d doubled from initial estimates, ballooning to nearly a billion dollars.

This is a vast industrial waste site bordering on the second deepest fresh water lake in the world—a Canadian treasure.

And yet for more than half of the last century, it was contaminated with no regard for the cost that would impose on our children and grandchildren.

Communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast have made their voices clear:

We will not let that happened again.

Despite this mess, the Conservative government is continuing down the same short-sighted path.

Dismantling every major piece of environmental protection, and hurting Canada’s economic development at the very same time.

Past generations can be excused for the way they treated places like Great Slave Lake.

But our generation has no excuse.

The fact is, in the 21st century, a social license is every bit as important as a regulatory license—if not more.

In this day and age, any development model that relies on degrading our environment, on putting public safety at risk or on exploiting our resources without benefiting our communities is no model at all.

It may surprise you to hear the Leader of the NDP say this, but it’s business leaders who understand best that we have to meet these challenges head on.

Earlier this year, TransCanada CEO Russ Girling was refreshingly candid in describing how social and environmental concerns have become business realities.

Speaking about his company’s surprise to find such emphatic opposition to Keystone-XL, Russ was blunt: “We won't make that mistake again.”

Whether it’s Keystone-XL, or the Fuel Quality Directive being considered in Europe.

Business leaders know that the future of Canada’s natural resource sector will be based on our access to global markets.

And that access, in turn, will be based on the perception of how we develop those resources.

That’s why New Democrats will end this government’s attack on our environmental laws—attacks that are sabotaging resource development, and ultimately our economy as a whole.

We will rise to meet our international climate change obligations by creating a cap-and-trade system that puts a clear market price on carbon.

We’ll use the revenue generated by that cap-and-trade system to reinvest in the future of our energy sector.

To invest in renewable energy projects in the regions where that revenue is generated and in the clean technology sector of tomorrow.

Canadians understand the long-term consequences of this government’s short-term moves, and they’re reacting.

In big cities and in small towns, development projects are meeting increasing resistance.

And why shouldn’t Canadians be worried, when they see the Conservative government gutting environmental assessments?

When they see that dangerous pipeline spills are on the rise, and wonder if their community might be next?

And Aboriginal communities across the country are also standing in opposition to energy projects—from the Northern Gateway pipeline on the West Coast to proposed fracking projects in the East— that fail to respect treaty rights, inherent rights and Canada's international obligations.

This is nothing new.

It was 40 years ago, nearly to the day, that the James Bay Cree won a landmark court injunction stopping construction on the entire James Bay hydroelectric project.

A $20 billion mega-project—call that $100 billion in today’s terms—ground to a halt because our leaders failed to consider social and environmental impacts.

And yet, 40 years later, this government still hasn’t learned.

Instead of seeing the role of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples as an obstacle to be overcome.

We should realize it's an opportunity to partner with First Nations.

To build and sustain a real nation-to-nation relationship.

This summer, Catherine and I travelled across the country on a listening tour in Aboriginal communities.

We heard the same thing over and over again.

Until we address these issues head on.

Until we take seriously our responsibilities under the Constitution and international law, development will continue to face opposition and energy projects will continue to be blocked.

A New Democratic government will make it a priority to resolve land claims and treaty disputes once and for all, so that we can finally move forward.

Like so many of the challenges facing our energy sector, this isn’t a question of capability it’s a question of political will.

New Democrats know our energy sector can benefit all communities and all Canadians, but only if our vision matches our aspirations.

Imagine if, instead of spending millions of dollars lobbying for a project like Keystone that will actually export 40,000 good, middle-class jobs if that same effort and political will had been directed toward Canadian resource projects—projects that would promote our own energy security and create value-added jobs here at home.

Canadian refineries are paying as much as $56 a barrel more to import in the East than Canadian producers can sell their oil for in the West.

That’s why New Democrats will work with the provinces to upgrade and refine our raw resources here in Canada.

Whether it’s raw logs or raw bitumen.

And that’s why both New Democrats and industry itself have called for increasing West-East pipeline capacity—it’s a win-win-win.

Higher prices for producers with more royalties for provinces.

More upgrading and refining jobs for energy workers.

And better energy security for all Canadians.

We know this country has the talent and the ingenuity, and New Democrats will get the job done.

But where we would partner with business, with labour, and with local communities this government has left a vacuum.

It may be reassuring to believe that market forces will somehow guide this process entirely on their own, but that’s just not how it works.

Businesses face uncertainty, and business leaders face short-term realities that don’t always reflect even their own company’s long-term interests.

Without a clear vision and clear commitments for the future—without clear rules—our energy sector is left grasping in the dark.

Unfortunately, that reality hasn’t struck the Conservative government quite yet.

Even global investors have been left bewildered by the Conservative approach.

For a government that has identified foreign investment as a key pillar of its energy strategy, its unpredictable approach certainly doesn’t instil much confidence in investors.

New Democrats will engage with communities, provinces and First Nations to make sure industry has clear rules that encourage long-term investment.

New Democrats will enshrine in law a coherent and strategic vision that creates the right climate for foreign investment—including a well-defined “net-benefit” to Canadians.

I spoke at a conference of progressive governments earlier this year in Copenhagen.

And I can tell you these governments are seized with this issue, and not just for environmental reasons.

Today, employment in the clean-tech sector is growing at a rate of 18% year-over-year.

Worldwide investment in clean technology is over $240 billion a year.

And the global clean-tech sector is expected to be worth an astonishing $3-trillion a year by 2020.

Countries like the United States, Denmark and Norway are leading the way—seizing the opportunity to establish their countries’ position in this emerging global market.

Norway, in particular, can serve as a model for Canada.

Like Canada, Norway has an advanced economy, a highly skilled workforce, and vast natural resource wealth.

But unlike the current Conservative government, Norway has leveraged its resources to create value-added jobs today, while building for the future.

In the 1970s, Norway used its vast offshore resources to become leaders in the construction of gravity-based drilling platforms.

And they now stand poised to invest the wealth created by their traditional energy industry in clean, renewable energy, not only at home, but worldwide.

Just as Norway leveraged its natural advantages in the last century, Canada can lead the way into this new century—if we get it right.

From oil sands to shale gas, non-traditional sources of carbon energy present vast new challenges.

Whether we’re talking about extraction and upgrading, or health, safety and environmental protection, Canada stands at the forefront of these new challenges and we can be on the cutting edge of finding solutions.

New Democrats will make it a priority to ensure that Canada is a world leader in the clean energy economy of the 21st century.

In the absence of any federal leadership, provinces like Manitoba are even developing their own energy and sustainability plans.

In Quebec, when I was the Environment Minister there, we introduced North America’s most comprehensive Sustainable Development Act.

And I am announcing here today that a New Democratic government will introduce over-arching sustainable development legislation at the federal level.

We’ll ensure that local communities and First Nations are fully and fairly consulted when energy projects impact them.

We'll work with municipalities so that dangerous goods transported through our communities are protected by world-class pipeline, tanker and rail safety standards that are enforced.

And our party will take arbitrary powers out of the hands of cabinet by establishing a thorough, credible and efficient system of environmental assessments.

Just like the review process I put in place as Minister of Sustainable Development in Quebec... reducing delays without compromising environmental protection.

We’re also going to work to help Canadians retrofit their homes and offices.

Instead of simply focusing on megawatts, it’s time we also focus on negawatts.

It’s a lot cheaper to save energy than produce it.

But right now, only 8 percent of Canadian homes have an energy retrofit and many buildings operate at 50 percent below their efficiency potential.

We can do a lot better.

Before it was cut by the Conservative government, the ecoENERGY Home Retrofit Program created more than 15,000 jobs while helping Canadians reduce their energy consumption, improve their home’s efficiency and lower their energy bills.

New Democrats will work with the provinces to create a new fund to help bring those savings back to Canadians.

But being ready for the 21 st century energy economy means more than just improving on what we’ve done in the past.

It means seeking out new opportunities.

That means investing in innovation, in research and development—in the knowledge economy— to make Canada a leader in the global clean technology sector.

This is the future of our energy sector— we can be ready, or we can be left behind.

A New Democratic government will redirect a billion dollars a year in fossil fuel subsidies, and re-invest that money in clean energy.

We’ll invest in Sustainable Development Technology Canada—a remarkable foundation that’s already helped grow more than 230 projects worth $2-billion.

Investments in wind, hydro, solar and geothermal technologies will create more than 20,000 new jobs for Canadians.

Together, we’ll make Canada a leader in the production of clean, renewable energy—making sure our country remains competitive well into the next century.

And mark my words: one of my first official acts as Prime Minister will be to attend the international climate conference in Paris in December 2015.

We'll be there, working with our international allies, instead of working against them.

Every generation has its defining moment.

New Democrats believe we’ve reached ours.

Here in Ottawa, in provincial capitals, and in cities around the world, it’s up to our generation to choose what kind of world we want to leave to future generations.

Will it be built on a vision of sustainability—both economic and environmental—or one built on no vision at all?

Will it be a world where Canada leads or where we follow?

New Democrats have chosen ambition.

In a generation, Canadians will ask what we did to prepare ourselves for the opportunities of our new century.

They’ll look at the challenges we face and ask why some failed to act, even when they knew better.

What we'll be able to tell them depends on the choices we make today.

New Democrats believe it’s time we made the right choices.

Not just for today, but for generations to come.

We’ll get it done.

Thank you.

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