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Singh Discovers New Interest in Climate, Declares Against Oil and Gas Fracking in Wake of B.C. Byelection Loss

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A week after the Green Party of Canada won a British Columbia byelection in a seat formerly held by the New Democrats, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is discovering new interest in the climate crisis, declaring himself against oil and gas fracking, and expressing concern about liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from B.C.

Singh, who previously voiced support for LNG Canada’s C$40-billion natural gas export facility in northern B.C. and the Coastal GasLink pipeline that would feed it, told reporters in Ottawa on Monday that ‘the future of Canada does not include fracking’,” the National Post reports. “ His comments come just days after NDP candidate Svend Robinson tweeted that his party’s loss of last week’s byelection in Nanaimo-Ladysmith is a ‘wake up call [1],’ and demanded a stronger stance from the federal leader ‘opposing fracking and all new oil and gas infrastructure’.”

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Robinson’s tweet [3] also called on the federal New Democrats to champion the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Pact for a Green New Deal [4].

The National Post report points to the significant shift in Singh’s position since his own byelection campaign just a few months ago. “The LNG project has demonstrated some clear, positive steps around consultation,” he said [5]. “There was an exhaustive and pretty thorough consultation around Indigenous communities, First Nations communities, and elected bands and chiefs.”

Singh acknowledged at the time that “there are people standing up and defending their land [6] who have the right to express those concerns,” concluding that “there’s still ongoing work that needs be addressed before this project moves ahead.”

On April 29, while the Nanaimo-Ladysmith campaign was under way, he told the House of Commons that “I want to build a future in which we are not fracking and burning.”

Asked about LNG Canada this week, he told media any natural resource project must meet broader goals on climate change, Indigenous rights, and job creation. “At this point, there’s some concerns that I’ve raised, and (the project) has not satisfied all those criteria,” he said.

“I do not support fracking. I do not believe that is the future for Canada,” he added. “I’ll also go beyond that, saying I don’t believe any energy source that’s carbon-based is the future for Canada.”

The post notes that LNG is a “tricky” issue for Singh given B.C. Premier John Horgan’s avid support (backed by billions of dollars [7] in taxpayer subsidies) for both LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink. Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidate Paul Manly said LNG was a wedge issue in the campaign, driven by Singh’s support for Horgan’s position.

After the NDP ran third in the riding, Robinson said LNG had been a “flashpoint” for voters. “I’m confident that the leadership of the party will recognize that we were sent an important message in the byelection and that we’ve got to step up, and we’ve got to be bold,” he told the Vancouver Sun.

On Monday, Robinson interpreted Singh’s most recent comments as opposing LNG Canada. “I’m really pleased with his leadership on this issue, on the issue of the climate crisis,” he told the Post’s Maura Forrest. “It’s clear to me that Jagmeet is listening to Canadians across the country, particularly to young people.”

The NDP leader also tabled a climate emergency motion in the House of Commons Monday, declaring that “we need to acknowledge on a global scale how serious this situation is and the fact that if we make better decisions, we can actually change this.” The Canadian Press reports [8] that Singh “won’t put a specific number on his targets yet, but he agreed the motion is ‘subtly suggesting’ the NDP would aim for the UN targets” established by last year’s IPCC report [9] on 1.5°C pathways, “which would mean Canada has to cut emissions almost in half by 2030.”

Liberal MP Sean Fraser, parliamentary secretary to Environment and Climate Minister Catherine McKenna, said the NDP’s climate emergency motion was well timed, after the Trudeau government scheduled a debate on the “rising climate emergency” in Canada for this week.

“Given that this motion was tabled just a few days after we had our own announcement that there would be a debate about climate change as an emergency, I expect that this is more political gamesmanship than it is actually an attempt at substantive policy debate,” he told CP.

On OurWindsor.ca, veteran Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert notes [10] that Singh’s recent focus on climate change has been “a change of pace of sorts for the NDP leader”. Until this week, in more than a dozen sittings of the House of Commons where he’s led his party in the daily Question Period, “he had yet to make climate change the main focus of his first round of questions to the government,” she writes. But now, “that may become a more regular occurrence,” with environment emerging as a centrepiece of the party’s platform for the federal election this fall.

“But the result of the byelection also suggests it is getting awfully late in the game for the New Democrats to try to upstage Green Party Leader Elizabeth May on the climate change stage,” after campaigning against the Liberals’ proposed Green Shift in 2008 and subsequently supporting tar sands/oil sands and pipeline development.

“Emboldened by the byelection victory, May is poised to spend the months between now and the election calling on voters who are concerned with global warming to send a strong enough Green contingent to Parliament to hold the next government’s feet to the fire,” Hébert writes. “Her ideal scenario would be a minority government that finds the Greens holding the balance of power, as is currently the case in the B.C. legislature.”

With that scenario, she adds, “May is borrowing a page from the NDP handbook—claiming for the Greens the role of environmental conscience in the Commons in an era when climate change has become as defining an issue for many voters as social justice once was.”

4 Comments (Open | Close)

4 Comments To "Singh Discovers New Interest in Climate, Declares Against Oil and Gas Fracking in Wake of B.C. Byelection Loss"

#1 Comment By Murray Reiss On May 15, 2019 @ 11:16 AM

I’d say it’s more that Mr Singh has discovered how to run for federal office by talking out of both sides of his mouth. At this late date it’s simply not good enough to say “I don’t believe any energy source that’s carbon-based is the future for Canada.” The future is here. It’s now. What Mr Singh needs to tell us is how fast he’s going to get us to that future and then we can decide if that’s anywhere fast enough.

#2 Comment By John Jeglum On May 15, 2019 @ 1:14 PM

Now that May has a firm partner in the climate change issue, she needs more such support. It is wonderful that Singh has seen the light, and is now against fracking and LNG. There is a significant number of citizens in BC who are against the fracking and LNG. Wouldn’t it be something it the Greens and NDP could come up with some kind of an alliance to fight the biggest threat to mankind, and achieve that 2030 goal of cutting emissions by half! I don’t have any faith that the Liberals or Conservatives will do this, they are too much captured by Oil’s Deep State, and the Big Stall imposed by BIG OIL and BIG GAS.

#3 Comment By Margaret Holm On August 10, 2019 @ 7:24 PM

Although Singh’s views may have changed, his MPs and the NDP party platform have been strongly for the environment and climate action for years. Look at the bills put forward in parliament by NDP MPs, they are not Johnny come lately to these issues as the article implies. Also why repost an article from May?

#4 Comment By Mitchell Beer On August 11, 2019 @ 11:05 PM

Thanks, Margaret. The explanation for the repost is at the top of the digest — we’re just finishing a two-week vacation break, during which we’ve been publishing “encore” editions (with a hat-tip to CBC for the terminology) in lieu of fresh content. We’ll be back Wednesday with new material.