New federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, Rachel Notley clash over pipelines

Jagmeet Singh

Jagmeet Singh, leader, NDP of Canada.

Polling data strongly suggests Canadians support new pipelines, unlike NDP under Jagmeet Singh

Jagmeet Singh doesn’t like pipelines. While running to replace Tom Mulcair, Singh came out against both the Trans Mountain Expansion and Energy East (cancelled by proponent TransCanada a few weeks ago). Now he and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley are quarrelling over Singh’s recent anti-pipeline comments. Public opinion polling suggests Notley is on the more solid ground – and that continued public attacks on pipelines by Singh may even suit her political purposes.

Jagmeet Singh

Rachel Notley, Alberta premier.

“What I propose are three criteria we need to satisfy for any energy project,” Jagmeet Singh told reporters while visiting Vancouver’s Chinatown district on Friday, according to Global News. Those criteria are respect for indigenous communities, meeting his party’s climate goals, and local jobs.

“Based on those criteria, I’ve said very clearly I’m not in support of Energy East or Kinder Morgan.”

Notley was having none of it. “I think he’s absolutely wrong,” she told reporters in Calgary.

Singh’s opposition is hardly a surprise. Where are the pro-pipeline votes for the federal NDP?

Of the biggest oil producing provinces, Alberta has a lone NDP MP, while Saskatchewan – spiritual home of the party – has a measly three seats.

Compare those numbers to 16 seats in BC, eight in Ont. and 16 in Que. – all provinces with significant opposition to new pipelines.

But when it comes to new pipelines, Notley appears to be more in line with Canadian attitudes than Singh.

Abacus Data has conducted a number of public opinion polls over the last few years asking Canadian voters how they feel about the future of energy and building new energy infrastructure.

jagmeet singhThe results show Canadians are pragmatic about pipelines: they understand the global economy is transitioning away from fossil fuels, they generally support that trend, but during the decades over which the transition occurs they support developing the national oil and gas industry, including building pipelines to get hydrocarbons to market.

“Canadians remain broadly inclined to believe that the right strategy for the country is to continue to harness our petroleum resources and to build pipeline capacity if needed, even while ramping up investments and policies that will see the country shift towards more reliance on renewable forms of energy,” said pollster Bruce Anderson said in the press release accompanying the survey.

Abacus asked Canadians if they believed demand for oil would be rising or falling in 10 years: the percentage that think it will will rise (31%) is almost identical to those that think it will  fall (32%). Looking 30 years out, the numbers are 57 per cent for falling oil demand and just 22 per cent for rising consumption.

“Worth noting is that 64% in BC and 51% of NDP voters believe that the country should continue to add pipeline capacity while investing in efforts to reduce emissions. Quebecers are evenly split on this question,” according to Abacus.

“Most Canadians (70%) believe that ‘pipelines play an essential role in delivering the energy we all use every day’ and an essential role in the economy of Canada (68%). People are far more likely to agree (63%) than disagree (22%) that pipelines deliver a huge amount of energy across Canada with few incidents.”

Canadians are also much more supportive of Trans Mountain Expansion project, which will begin construction over the next month or two: 31 per cent support, 22 per cent oppose, and 27 per cent can support the project under certain circumstances.

Abacus says the 2017 data haven’t changed since last year’s survey.

On Keystone, 33% support, 25% oppose, and 25% say they can support the project under certain conditions.

jagmeet SinghEven in British Columbia, where Trans Mountain Expansion is highly controversial, opposition is not significantly greater than support: 27 per cent support, 32 per cent oppose and 29 per cent say they can support the project under some circumstances.

At 39 per cent, NDP voters are the most opposed to the 525,000 b/d Kinder Morgan project that will transport diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to a Burnaby marine terminal, then on to Asian markets by tanker, but that’s not even close to a majority.

The federal Liberals (mostly) support pipelines, the Conservatives support pipelines, I suppose it was inevitable that one of the three major national political parties was going to oppose them.

Well, not oppose them exactly, but evaluate them on criteria like GHG emissions and local jobs where the odds of deciding in a project’s favour are essentially nil.

But given Canadian attitudes toward new pipeline projects, Singh’s strategy appears to mostly appeal to the same demographic that voted NDP in the 2015, when the party polled 19.7 per cent of the ballots.

Notley’s stance is right in line with the majority of Canadians. That won’t endear her to Singh or BC NDP Premier John Horgan – both of whom have played up their willingness to work with Alberta – but that’s not Notley’s goal.

She has a singular objective heading into the inevitable fierce opposition in BC to the building of Trans Mountain Expansion (and in other parts of the country over construction of Keystone XL, which will almost certainly be rammed through final approvals by the Trump Administration regardless of state or local objections): rally enough public support for pipelines that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have sufficient steel in his spine to order the RCMP and maybe the military to throw hundreds – probably thousands – of protesters in jail when the time comes.

From that point of view, Singh’s comments play right into Notley’s hands. The more the Alberta premier gets to sound like the reasonable, rational politician defending Canadian jobs and the economy on the national stage, the more she shores up support for Trudeau when the inevitable happens in the very near future.

I suspect the Alberta Premier is secretly hoping Singh will continue attacking Trans Mountain Expansion.

jagmeet singh

Posted in: Markham on Energy

1 Comment on "New federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, Rachel Notley clash over pipelines"

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  1. Glen Schmidt says:

    Priemer Notley is in her position representing both reason & a fair position.

    While in opposition the Premier did pander to ENGO’s & opposition to pipelines.

    With Governing she has responsibility and clearly has come to learn the merits of pipelines, we should respect her enlightenment

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