Confusion over NDP’s position on Kinder Morgan pipeline clarified

Is there a serious difference of opinion on the Kinder Morgan pipeline within the federal NDP?

That appeared to be the case on Dec. 23, when The Vancouver Sun ran an online article stating that party leader Thomas Mulcair would not oppose the pipeline expansion project, while Burnaby MP Kennedy Stewart is adamantly against the project.

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The article, by the Sun’s Ottawa correspondent Peter O’Neil, stated that, “Mulcair said he’s not going to oppose the Kinder Morgan project, which submitted its National Energy Board application last week. He said the NDP recognizes the importance of getting Canadian oil and gas to the B.C. and Atlantic coasts to avoid dependence on the U.S. market.”

When the NOW contacted Stewart about the comments and the apparent rift in opinion, the Burnaby-Douglas MP said the party’s position had not changed and that the article was “poorly written.” In fact, O’Neil subsequently changed the online piece, which now reads: “Mulcair said he’s not going to repeat (B.C. NDP leader Adrian) Dix’s error by ruling out support for the Kinder Morgan project in advance of its assessment by the National Energy Board, which received the company’s application last week. He said the NDP recognizes the importance of getting Canadian oil and gas to foreign markets.”

Some political pundits think that move cost Dix the election. 

If approved, the expansion would nearly triple oil shipments to Burnaby and dramatically increase tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet.

While Mulcair has said he’s not going to rule out support for the project in before the National Energy Board decides, Stewart is still adamantly opposed to the pipeline, based on feedback from his constituents, concerns about the environment and the loss of value-added jobs for Canada. 

The NDP is on record calling for a national energy strategy and criticizing the Conservatives for changing the rules, so cabinet members can now override decisions made by the National Energy Board. (That means if the board rejects Kinder Morgan’s project, the Conservatives could go ahead with the project anyway, as they now have the final say.)

Peter Julian, Burnaby-New Westminster MP and the NDP’s energy and natural resources critic, has also said the project “cannot be approved in the absence of a thorough, credible, complete environmental assessment.”

While the NDP appears opposed to the pipeline expansion, Mulcair’s cautionary approach raises more questions.

The NOW tried to contact Mulcair, to clarify where, exactly, he stands on the mega-oil project, but he was unavailable during the holidays.

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