Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
EDMONTON -- Canada needs to boost its manufacturing sector to make up for jobs that will be lost in oil refining, federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said Saturday during the Alberta NDP’s annual convention at Crowne Plaza Chateau Lacombe.
Mulcair expressed concerns over the loss of potential manufacturing jobs in the proposed Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipeline deals.
He said the Keystone pipeline, which would ship raw bitumen to the U.S. gulf coast, would represent the export of 40,000 well-paying jobs in upgrading, refining and transformation.
“We should be looking at our own energy security in Canada,” Mulcair said.
“We should be looking to create jobs in Canada before we ship it out in its raw form at the lowest price.”
Mulcair said the loss of manufacturing jobs is not only happening in Alberta’s oil industry, but also on the Atlantic coast where fish are being fast-frozen and shipped to China for processing.
“There does seem to be a consistent pattern of behaviour in Canada where we let foreign countries, in this case, actually take over our resource,” he said.
Mulcair said he has “grave” environmental concerns with the pipelines, citing the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska as a warning of the devastation a spill could cause.
He also knocked the federal Tories, saying they don’t enforce Canada’s environmental laws and change laws to correspond to industry practices.
“What we’ve been talking about since the beginning is the need to enforce existing federal environmental laws. Whether it’s the Fisheries Act, Species at Risk Act, or the navigable waters act, those laws are not being enforced right now,” Mulcair said.
Mulcair and Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason both stressed that Alberta does need pipelines, but that we shouldn’t be shipping unprocessed bitumen to foreign markets.
Mason said Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline to the west coast being “entirely owned” by Chinese state oil companies is not in Canada’s best interest. The Northern Gateway is a hot-button issue in Edmonton, where federal hearings on the pipeline are underway.
Mulcair said the NDP wants fair and reciprocal trade deals that take into account the human rights, workers’ rights, and environmental records of Canada’s trading partners.
“There’s really little difference between a state-controlled company and the state itself, and I think that’s something that should be on the table,” he said.
Mulcair also touched on health care Saturday, saying the Conservatives are leading the country into a two-tiered system to the detriment of poor Canadians.
He’s confident the NDP will win more seats in the prairie provinces in the next federal election.
“We understand that between the Ontario border and British Columbia, we have only three seats. That will change in the next election,” he said.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Alberta NDP party.