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November 24, 2011

Nathan Cullen’s Energy Policy

Nathan Cullen knows that for Canada to prosper in a competitive, inter-dependent world, we must live up to our potential. In the 21st Century, that means putting the environment at the heart of our economy—to lower costs for Canadians and business, and make us a truly sustainable energy superpower.

As leader of Canada’s New Democrats, a key priority for Nathan will be helping Canada prosper from newer, cleaner technologies. While our economy is currently over-reliant on fossil fuels, this will, and must change, within the lifetime of our children, our homes, businesses and transport will be powered differently.

It’s time for a Canadian clean energy plan that is based on developing resources—renewable and non-renewable—in ways that maximize our economic, environmental and strategic interests.

Today, an abundance of oil and gas is a competitive advantage. Tomorrow, it may not be. Unlocking Canada from a future of increasingly expensive and risky energy production—the oil sands, shale gas and deepwater drilling—is a core reason why Nathan believes we do not have the time to waste and must elect a progressive government.

New thinking is needed, which recognizes that for decades, Canada has failed to honour our international obligations to fight climate change. Hollow commitments and symbolic debates have not led to better choices. The urgency for a progressive government is real—so Canada can take the practical steps that will transition us to a cleaner, more competitive energy future.

This won’t be achieved by pitting Canadians against each other. It can only be achieved by working together, across all sectors, to seriously tackle climate change and prepare for a clean energy century ahead.

It’s time to take the next step and deliver a progressive government that will be guided by developing energy better sources, valuing energy better and using energy better. This policy achieves those goals.

Energy competitiveness: Using it Better

Canadian energy use is among the highest in the world; only the United States and Australia use more per capita among major economies. Reducing energy use not only saves families and businesses money, it also protects our economy from building expensive new power generation.

In Ontario, for example, it is six times less expensive to reduce demand than to expand supply. Making our buildings and transportation more energy efficient is sound financial and environmental policy, which also helps cleaner technology play a larger role in meeting energy needs.

As Prime Minister, Nathan Cullen would:

Help Canadians use less energy in their homes and at work, and save money by:

  • Promoting efficiency as the most-cost effective way of cutting emissions, and leveraging the highest levels of private investment for government support
  • Helping building owners future-proof their properties and cut energy bills, through a low-interest loan fund. Loans can be repaid through energy savings—a proven plan—creating immediate jobs, reducing demand and providing stable, predictable returns for public pension plans.
  • Acting immediately to help lower-income Canadians avoid the choice between paying the rent and groceries or paying their utilities through targeted interest-free retrofit loans and a special energy retrofit program aimed at rental properties.
  • Updating the National Building Code to incorporate best practices in energy-efficient buildings, and working with provinces and territories to bring provincial building codes up to the highest provincial standards.

Help Canadians use less energy from transportation, and save money by:

  • Supporting a national public transit strategy to fight gridlock, improve the competitiveness of Canadian cities and cut emissions by providing a larger portion of the federal gas tax to municipalities for public transit.
  • Helping create continent-wide fuel efficiency, by joining California and other U.S. states in mandatory vehicle efficiency measures.
  • Recognizing that Canada is far behind other countries in high-speed rail in densely populated areas. We need to work to a goal of high-speed rail in key corridors starting with the Windsor-Quebec City route.

Work with provinces to dramatically improve east-west energy transmission links. As part of the national plan for energy competitiveness, Canada should prioritize:

  • Helping foster east-west transmission capacity to provide coal- and nuclear-dependent provinces with cleaner, cheaper, renewable hydro power.
  • A more integrated transmission system can help ensure the reliable baseload backbone for a transition to renewable power sources.
  • Making local energy generation and distribution a key priority of federal infrastructure funding, to help municipalities save significant money and cut emissions.

Energy competitiveness: Producing it better

After using energy better, the second step to energy competitiveness is producing it better—rewarding businesses that pollute less, by pricing the pollution that comes from using fossil fuels, while taking advantage of the significant economic potential of renewable energy.

As Prime Minister, Nathan Cullen would:

Make a green jobs strategy a priority. Tomorrow’s energy will depend on creating a positive climate for investors and engineers; and also ensuring Canadian workers are trained and able to work in and support new industries.

The potential job creation of clean energy and energy efficiency has already been seen in manufacturing and services. To make faster advances in producing and using energy better, Canada must:

  • Use federal infrastructure funding to leverage using more efficient energy, and cleaner energy technologies, which allows businesses and their workers dependable markets in which to grow. This includes recognizing the job-creating and competitive advantages of public transit.
  • Work with provinces and territories to increase training of tradespeople in energy efficiency and clean energy technology, including providing incentives through the EI program for transitioning workers to increase skills in clean energy.
  • Direct government Research & Development funding, plus leveraging private investment, to develop leading edge green technologies and services for domestic use and growing export markets around the world. We must export our knowledge not just our energy.
  • Include environmental screens in trade policy. By working with current and new trading partners Canada can help improve environmental policies while creating markets for Canadian-made products and technology.
  • Immediately begin retro-fitting federal buildings for energy efficiency, modelled on successful programs in Manitoba and Toronto, to save taxpayers money and create jobs in energy efficiency.

End the massive subsidies and environmental free-ride the oil and gas industries currently enjoy. Specifically, by:

  • Eliminating perverse subsidies for the oil and gas sector, including tax incentives which give them an unfair advantage against cleaner energy solutions.
  • Making the industry respect our communities, land, water and air through robust environmental regulations and an increased voice for local communities
  • Recognizing that the pace of growth in the oil sands has outstripped our ability to assess their impact on water, land and air, and not allowing new oil sands projects to proceed until science-based limits on environmental impacts are in place, particularly for greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Redirecting subsidies and incentives currently given to fossil fuels to renewable energy, to help position Canada for long-term energy and environmental competitiveness.

Ensure that our economy’s current reliance on fossil fuels benefits Canadian workers, by stopping the export of raw bitumen. This policy reflects that:

  • The export of raw bitumen rapidly expands the pace of development in the oil sands, and sells off natural resources in their least valuable form.
  • Proposed pipelines to the United States and ports destined for Asia are poised to export tens of thousands of jobs in refining and spin-off opportunities. Particularly in regard to Asia, exporting raw bitumen also increases pollution due to less stringent environmental rules.

Reflect the reality that pollution creates financial costs for Canada, and pricing carbon in line with science-based greenhouse gas targets.

  • Clear timelines for implementation will give businesses investment certainty and provide incentives to invest in cleaner technology.
  • Revenues will be reinvested to ensure sustainable energy security and position Canada for a leading role in the global green economy.
  • Recognize that a cap-and-trade system of carbon pricing is increasingly the model used around the world—in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. This is the fairest way of pricing carbon, based on the principle of polluter pays.

Cutting public subsidies for nuclear power, and refusing to underwrite the industry’s risks, which exposes taxpayers to huge potential costs. This recognizes:

  • The environmental and health risks of nuclear power generation; and the on-going public liability accruing to the legacy of radioactive waste, for which no safe disposal method exists.
  • That given Canada’s abundance of safer, cheaper technologies, nuclear power has not been a fiscally responsible choice. Apart from the large subsidies for nuclear construction and refurbishment, the nuclear industry’s inability to self-insure is reckless in light of recent disasters.

Restore federal support for renewable power. This invests in proven job-creators at home while preparing Canadian businesses and workers to prosper. In previous centuries, this was the Canadian strategy for fossil fuels. In this century, given American, European and Asian investments in clean energy, Canada must keep pace by tying targets to an international benchmark.

Energy competitiveness: Sourcing it better

No issue illustrates Stephen Harper’s failure in bringing Canadians together better than energy. An issue so central to our future prosperity warrants national attention, guided by realistic information, not the oil industry’s talking points.

Better information leads to better decisions, but particularly on geothermal energy, Canada doesn’t even know what resources we have—let alone how to use them more intelligently. This is short-sighted. In our lifetimes, we have all seen the rapid pace of technological change, yet are ill-prepared for similar shifts in energy.

As Prime Minister, Nathan Cullen would:

  • Appoint a Minister of Energy Security with an immediate mandate of mapping Canada’s renewable energy resources. Knowing the potential and location of renewable energy is a key ingredient in making the transition away from fossil fuels as quickly, cheaply and smartly as possible. 
  • Within one year, hold a First Ministers’ Meeting on energy competitiveness that brings together provinces, territories, First Nations, Inuit and Metis. This would be Canada’s first national discussion on preparing for a clean energy future, and include a significant focus on ensuring Canada’s workforce can prosper in the century ahead. 

Together, these practical steps would allow provinces, territories, municipalities and First Nations an accurate picture of local renewable resources—geothermal, wind, solar and tidal power potential. It would break polluting industries’ grip on energy development, and may help mitigate building wide-scale new transmission capacity—delivering cleaner energy more cheaply to families and businesses. 

They would also allow protection of environmentally sensitive areas from development, while fostering better east-west transmission capacity between provinces.

Together we can ensure Canada takes its place as a global leader in the new energy economy. Through reasoned policies we can cement our place as a clean energy superpower and demonstrate the advantage of integrating the environment and the economy.