Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Conservatives and NDP Battle in War of Words over Competing Energy Policies

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Conservatives and NDP Battle in War of Words over Competing Energy Policies

Article excerpt

Tories, NDP in energy-policy war of words

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OTTAWA - Tom Mulcair says an NDP government would turn on its ear a Conservative policy that permits government to override environmental assessments of major energy projects.

He would allow government to kill projects before they even got as far as an environmental assessment.

"There are some things that some people would send to the NEB (National Energy Board) that we would say no to," Mulcair told reporters at downtown Ottawa hotel Wednesday.

The NDP leader had just rolled out his party's energy policy in a speech to the Economic Club of Canada, where he promised to "take arbitrary powers out of the hands of cabinet."

Mulcair vowed to repeal Conservative legislation that gives government fiat to override National Energy Board assessments on major resource projects.

The provision has raised alarms among environmentalists who fear governments could approve projects that fail the independent environmental review.

However Mulcair substituted his own arbitrary power when he explained later to reporters that an NDP government would have killed the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipeline proposals without NEB input.

Environment assessments, once completed, have to be respected, Mulcair said.

"What you can do, though, is just simply decide that some things -- like the Northern Gateway pipeline would be a good example -- are non-starters."

Similarly, TransCanada's $5.4-billion Keystone pipeline to the U.S. Gulf Coast, which was given the green light from the National Energy Board in 2010, never should have had a hearing, said Mulcair.

"Based on our approach to sustainable development, we would have never sent something like that to the NEB," he said.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who delivered his own energy policy pitch in a Vancouver speech Wednesday, was rendered almost speechless by Mulcair's logic.

"It's a bit of a shocker," Oliver said in a telephone interview.

"He would be making a determination on whether a project should go ahead before he knows what the regulatory consequence of building the project would be."

Oliver said under the NDP policy, "everything would be political before it's regulatory, before it gets the regulatory review. …

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