Last week the NDP candidate for Toronto Centre, Linda McQuaig, stirred the tar sands pot, telling a CBC panel discussion that for Canada to meet its climate change targets, "a lot of the oil sands oil may have to stay in the ground." As an Albertan, I suppose I am expected to be offended at this slighting of our precious sands. Or perhaps as a Dipper I should be concerned that she has undermined my party's campaign.
Not a bit of it. I'm delighted that she's broached the issue. Why? Because she spoke the truth. And it's a truth that desperately needs to be spoken. We can no longer afford to pretend, as our federal government has done, that we can expand bitumen production indefinitely. At least not if we want to meet any sensible greenhouse gas emissions targets. According to the best science, at least three-quarters of known fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground if humanity is to avoid the worst effects of climate change. That doesn't leave much room for expanding tar sands production.
Frequently in politics, a truth is out there but no politician wants to speak it because of a potentially adverse political reaction. As a result, important issues fail to get the attention they deserve. At least until some politician, perhaps one with a little more courage or with less to lose (a politician from Toronto in this instance), speaks the politically incorrect words. Then the issue enters the political domain and receives the discussion and debate it is due.
In this case, Linda McQuaig has done us that favour. (Certainly our new NDP government couldn't, even though I suspect the great majority of party supporters know the issue must be recognized and dealt with.) We will, in the short term, hear all the clichés: the effete Toronto elite dissing salt of the earth Albertans, lefties making war on the oil industry, etc., etc. Such is the deplorable state of discussion about the tar sands in this country, the Conservatives having successfully smothered the issue in political correctness.
The foolishness of creating an economy heavily reliant on a resource that must be phased out should be obvious, yet Ms. McQuaig is being roundly criticized for stating that simple truth. Nonetheless, she has broken the ice, now it's up to the rest of the political class to get serious about the reality of global warming.