My appointment as Natural Resources critic for the NDP has me handling important national files for northerners.
For example, the monster Keystone XL Pipeline project in the news would cost $7 billion and flow raw bitumen from the Alberta oil sands down to our energy-hungry American neighbours through several U.S. states and over sensitive water table territory.
I was on my feet in Question Period twice recently pointing out that there are good paying Canadian jobs also flowing out of the country, along with that raw bitumen.
“Mr. Speaker, this out-of-touch government seems more concerned with American unemployment than Canadian jobs,” I said.
“Why else would it ignore environmental concerns on both sides of the border and ship raw bitumen on the Keystone pipeline to the Gulf coast? We all know it is not just oil sands bitumen that will flow through that pipeline. It is good paying Canadian jobs.”
The NDP wants the government to protect Canadian jobs by ordering the National Energy Board to assess the impact of the Keystone XL pipeline on Canadian workers.
Labour and environmental groups also oppose to the Keystone project.
The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada estimates that the increased export of Alberta bitumen will cost the Canadian economy an estimated 40,500 potential jobs from delayed and cancelled upgrading and refining projects in Canada.
CEP opposes Keystone XL because of the job losses, increased greenhouse gas emissions from additional oil sands development and the undermining of Canadian energy security by an increase in U.S. exports while parts of Canada still rely on foreign oil imports.
People in northern Ontario unfortunately know this story too well.
Our natural resources are exploited and exported from here with a net loss for our economy. This happens in part because the Conservative government remains a blind adherent to its market and free trade ideology, failing to put Canada and Canadians first.
As the vice-chair of the Natural Resources committee, I am also participating in a related new parliamentary study on northern resources as we deal with energy, mining, offshore drilling, environmental and value added market concerns.
I want to include northern Ontario resource issues, like the “Ring of Fire” chromite beds in this study.
For years, New Democrats have called for a pan-Canadian energy strategy to protect our environment and ensure Canadian companies and communities take advantage of future energy opportunities.
Emphasizing only oil and gas expansion over a transition to cleaner technologies will hold Canada back.
New Democrats are also warning that reducing environmental protections puts our communities at risk.
Proper environmental assessments and strong regulations are what protect our communities.
The Conservatives have repeatedly slashed environmental protections to serve industry interests.
Canadians want sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their children, not a mass export pipeline that will pour away the benefits of our natural resources, while leaving us with the environmental tab.
These priorities will help Canada move to a sustainable, clean-energy future.
Claude Gravelle is the NDP MP for Nickel Belt.