* Québec solidaire leader calls on federal parties to make climate change the central issue

Amir Khadir

Below is a translation from the August 20 edition of the Montreal-based newspaper, Le Devoir.


Federal leaders must come up with a substitute for oil

by Amir Khadir

The longest election campaign in recent Canadian history is an opportunity
to point to the contradictions of the major parties on the question of
ecology. If there is one issue that touches simultaneously on economic
development, the protection of ecosystems, public health, climate warming,
transportation and the legitimacy of public institutions, it is the
exploitation of the tar sands and the many pipeline projects for exporting
the most polluting oil in the world.

Let’s say it straightaway: No federal party at this time has a credible plan
to get out of hydrocarbons. They have not said where they stand on
controversial projects like Old Harry, Anticosti or shale gas.[1] As long as
Quebec remains in the Canadian federation, the Québécois are entitled to
demand more from the parties that hope to govern in Ottawa, and that that
they take decisions that measure up to the issues of the 21st century.

It is in good taste to say that economy and environment should not conflict.
However, we often overlook the contradictions between the imperative of
unlimited growth of tar sands operations and the fight against climate

Oil interests

A brilliant journalist of the Toronto Star, Linda McQuaig, running for the
NDP in Toronto, put her finger on the problem. During a television debate,
she reminded us of an obvious fact on which there is scientific consensus: a
large quantity of tar sands will have to remain below the ground if Canada
hopes to achieve its objectives in the fight against climate change.

This simple factual statement unleashed a media storm in which all the
leaders, including [the NDP’s] Thomas Mulcair, took their distance from this
position. “When men cannot change things, they change the words,” said Jean
Jaurès. And that’s exactly what happened.

These leaders hurried to characterize the New Democrat candidate’s statement
as extreme! And to reiterate their support for the energy industry under the
pretext that it provides well-paid jobs. Of course, since no one is against
virtue, sustainable development, social acceptability and renewable
energies, each was quick to promise environmental assessments, forgetting
that these are all too often entrusted to agencies heavily influenced by
people from the industry, in particular the oil industry.

In the end, the oil interests have imposed themselves on the politicians,
twisting the meaning of words and harping on “business as usual.” Canadian
petropolitics requires that no one disrupt the dominant economic and energy
paradigm, where powerful fortunes have an interest in ensuring that nothing

Pipelines of dissent

Another example of ambiguity on the part of the major federal parties
concerns their positions on the many pipeline projects. In Quebec, we are of
course concerned about TransCanada’s Energy East project, which will convey
1.1 million barrels of oil per day for export abroad, with tiny economic
benefits and increased risks to hundreds of waterways and local communities.
But there are also the Northern Gateway, Keystone XL and Kinder Morgan
projects, as well as the projects for exploration and drilling in the deep
waters of the Arctic and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

In the case of Energy East, it is clear that the interests of Quebec are
opposed to those of the economic elite that dominates Canadian politics.

From this standpoint, petroleum is not only a national issue for us as
Quebec independentists, it is also an environmental and social issue
affecting the people of Quebec, the people of Canada, the First Nations and
the entire planet!

What is desperately lacking in this election campaign is a global vision, a
desirable, viable and realizable solution that will replace the relentless
exploitation of hydrocarbons. In short, a credible plan that starts from
“where we are now” and shows us the path to follow “to where we want to go.”
This is not utopian, but showing realism, to carry out an energy transition
toward a post-carbon economy by 2050.

As the philosopher André Gorz pointed out, it is time to think from back to
front, to define the changes to be made by looking at the goal to be
achieved and not to set the goals by starting with the interests of those
who resist change. It is necessary, therefore, to go beyond a mere papering
over of the current petropolitics. We need a prosperity based on sources of
sustainable and ecologically responsible energy.

[End of article]

[Thanks to Richard Fidler for this translation, from his blog at http://lifeonleft.blogspot.ca/2015/08/amir-khadir-desperately-lacking-in.... To read the original in French click on the link below.]