Thomas Mulcair, mostly undaunted

by Aaron Wherry

In interviews with the Globe and West Block, Thomas Mulcair expressed regret for his “messengers” remark about the Western premiers, but otherwise dug in.

… this is a fight that we’ve been looking for. We see this as a defining element of the next election campaign in Canada. We are leaving a less diversified economy by the choices. The very fact of the matter is, is the Conservatives are failing to enforce legislation that exists now. Polluter pay is a basic principle that all Canadians can agree upon. That’s the base of the problem. Right now we’re not enforcing several statutes federally; the Fisheries Act, the Migratory Birds Act, the Navigable Waters Act, these are all things that should be included in the real costs of the oil sands. Instead, the federal government is failing. Stephen Harper’s government is failing to enforce that legislation. Polluter pay is the base of this whole debate.

For those of you keeping track of trends in alliteration, note that Dutch disease is out and polluter pay is in.

So far as the former is concerned, Stephen Gordon and Livio Di Matteo consider the economics. Brian Topp considers the politics of raw resources.




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Thomas Mulcair, mostly undaunted

  1. Why is Mulcair’s “polluter pays” mantra always aimed directly at the oil sands? Is that *really* the only industry in Canada that pollutes? There aren’t any mines in Quebec where the Polluter should pay? No factories in S.Ont where they Pollute and Don’t Pay? And does he really think that we’re all so stupid that we don’t realize that “Polluter Pays”, will probably mean in the end, we as consumers will be the ones paying?

    This sounds like the Green Shift all over again, just with more spin.

    • “we as consumers will be the ones paying” seems a little more fair than “we as taxpayers will be the ones paying”. If they can’t make a profit doing it cleanly, maybe it shouldn’t be done. If that means raising the price, then it should be the end users, not the taxpayers, who absorb the increased cost.
      If the only way to make a profit is to dump cleanup costs onto the taxpayer after the fact (at which time it usually costs way more than putting in cleaner processes up front) then they should be told to take a hike.

  2. I’m glad to finally have a leader of the opposition who’s willing to take on Stephen Harper. Talking about sustainable development as an economic issue, and not just an environmental one is a great strategy. Our rush to export raw resources to other countries, and fuel their economic growth, is bad economics.
    “Polluter pays” wouldn’t just effect the oil sands, it is just the must obvious example. Prosperity Mine here in BC shouldn’t be given a free pass to turn a lake into a tailings pond. There should be a cost associated with the sulfur dioxide emissions coming from the Inco smokestack in Sudbury.
    If there is no cost, why would companies want to make their operations cleaner? Regulations are a minimum bar, after that there has to be a price to encourage change. Our land, water, and air are not free dumping grounds.
    http://canadianveggie.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/how-the-ndp-found-its-green-mojo/

  3. At long last we get to the crux of the matter!

    ‘Polluter pays’ is the part of ‘the cost of doing business’ that has never been taken into account before.

    Drilling, mining, factories etc have simply dumped their toxic residue into the nearest harbour, lake, river, stream, landfill ….and left it for the taxpayer to clean up when the business is done with the site.

    This comment board doesn’t seem to be accepting urls lately, but anyone can google Cuyahoga River….100 miles long, and so polluted that humans managed to set it on fire!

    And not just once, but 13 times!

    And Love Canal…where they built houses on top of the mess…is legendary.

    Sydney Steel created one of the worst environmental hazards in Canada.

    This doesn’t just happen occasionally….because of a few ‘bad apples’….it’s standard procedure….and it has to be stopped.

  4. Why hasn’t Elizabeth May jumped in to support Mulcair on this one? Surely the environment is more important than some short term political strategy the Greens must be thinking about.

  5. I don’t think that using (or co-opting) an economic theory or observed phenomenon that does not necessarily hold (even a grudging) acceptance in economic circles is necessarily a good or effective way to demonstrate opposition to the governmental acceptance environmental costs that the energy projects in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan have. It’s not a surprise that it is being understood as regionalist partisan bickering and Eastern sour grapes by Western politicians and the politically-inclined alike.

    As nice as it was to drop the “Dutch Disease” claims and move on to “Polluter Pay”, it’s not going to work insofar that it still sets up a simplistic good v evil scenario and it still fundamentally lets the average Canadian off the hook of their own responsibilities to reduce emissions. When you combine the image of the evil-energy-producers-raping-the-environment with the fact of the geographic location of the bulk of those projects and the party strongholds of the “sides”, it doesn’t add up to any solutions being presented, only finger-pointing. When Mulcair says “polluter pays”, he means an entirely different “polluter” than when Baird or Harper says it.

    With that being said, I quite like the sort of modified and ultimately more respectable style that May has taken on since the election. It may not feel like it now, but I think her methods will pay off in steady attraction to the Green Party and to greater environmental sensitivity across the board.

    I don’t believe that anybody fundamentally wants to degrade the environment and ultimately, for those who the economic trade off is never going to reach an acceptable level, a properly-considered carbon tax without significant loopholes for darling industries (across the country) is the only way to actually solve the issue and get people on board. If Canadians can’t get on board with internalizing these externalities (for me and thee), then we deserve all the health issues and other problems that come with it. If the environment really is a concern, then it’s time to quit being children about it.

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