NDP Leader Liz Hanson says the Leap Manifesto will have little impact on her territorial party.
Federal New Democrats agreed at their national convention in April to hold debates on the manifesto, which calls for drastic action on climate change, in ridings across Canada.
Dan Bader, president of the Yukon’s federal NDP riding association, said the association has not yet debated the manifesto, given its focus on the upcoming territorial election.
Hanson acknowledged that the values of both territorial and federal New Democrats “originate at the same core,” which is why she attended the convention, even though she is not a member of the federal association.
“If their purpose was to stimulate discussion or debate, it certainly did that,” she said, adding that her personal view was that it was not handled in the most effective manner. “It caught people by surprise,” she added, referring to the controversy it sparked. “I don’t think anyone anticipated that it was going to be coming forward in the way that it did.”
The manifesto calls for, among other things, a transition to a fossil fuel-free economy by 2050. Hanson said she thinks this is a legitimate target, “but you have to bring the conversation and bring people along with it.”
The Yukon needs to wean itself off fossil fuels to be in accordance with the federal government’s commitments, Hanson said.
“Our premier has his own manifesto which is no carbon tax,” she added. She said the Yukon Party’s oil-and-gas strategy, which seeks to develop a self-sufficient local oil-and-gas industry, is a “contradiction in terms.”
“We are living with the reality that every science-based research that’s out there says we should be leaving it in the ground,” she said.
“What economic argument can you make for this when you’ve got the (oil) prices where they are now?” she added, noting the infrastructure costs associated with establishing a new oil-and-gas industry in the territory.
Leap Manifesto supporters maintain the oil crisis in Alberta provides an opportunity to shift to a low-carbon economy through strategies that include renewable-energy projects, retrofitted housing and mass public transit.
The pitch wasn’t well-received by many Albertan New Democrats. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley rejected the manifesto, calling its ideas “ill-informed” and “tone-deaf,” while Alberta labour leader Gil McGowan called manifesto supporters “downtown Toronto political dilettantes.”
In British Columbia, NDP Leader John Horgan said the manifesto does not reflect values of British Columbians, adding, “our past and our future will be dependent on the development of natural resources.”
One particularly contentious assertion among the 15 demands in the manifesto states that the “iron law” for energy development and mining projects should be “if you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard.”
Opponents contend that nobody would support a mine in their own backyard, while the mining industry will necessarily be part of the new energy economy.
“We believe that mining has been and always will play a role in our economy, we just don’t think you make it one pillar. You can’t build a whole economy on one pillar,” Hanson responded. “It’s New Democrats who have actually worked in mines, including two of our NDP premiers.”
She added that the NDP supports Yukon’s environmental and socio-economic assessment process, while the Yukon Party has tried to undermine it. The oft-cited federal Bill S-6, which passed last year with the Yukon Party’s support, aimed to streamline project approval, prompting a lawsuit by Yukon’s First Nations chiefs who said they were not adequately consulted. The current Liberal federal government recently tabled legislation to repeal the controversial sections of the law.
“These are really important issues,” Hanson said. “I do think it’s important to spend the time to talk about them. It’s too easy for people to say we are ‘anti-this’ and ‘anti-that.’ What we are saying is that we accept and we have a responsibility to work with those that want to invest in our territory, that we have clear ground rules and that there’s certainty for them.”
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