K'jipuktuk (Halifax) - NDP Environment Critic, and MP for Halifax, Megan Leslie has offered to give Halifax Media Co-op readers a monthly recap on the goings-on at Parliament Hill. Ottawa can feel like a long way from East Coast, so if you have a question you'd like to ask Megan for next month's interview, please email email@example.com.
Enjoy the first installment of this new feature.
We learned this month about the lowest Arctic ice levels in recorded history. What are the impacts you see for Canadians, especially Northern Canadians?
"My colleague [MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan, and Critic for Aboriginal Affairs] Jean Crowder was up in Nunavut this spring talking about food security. She had a round table [discussion], and there were a lot of women around the table who said 'Our husbands won't talk about this publicly. But they can't hunt. There's no ice. And they can't provide for us. And there's an incredible amount of shame that comes with that. And while they're reluctant to talk about that, because of the shame that they feel, we're telling you that we don't have access to food. We're so reliant on the South for food, because it's becoming more and more difficult to hunt.'"
"There are also incredible issues around national security. We actually heard some scientists say we could have ice-free, year round, as early as 2020. That's practically tomorrow. So if that happens, what's our plan? Do we have a national security plan to deal with that? Do we have a coastal plan to deal with that? Do we have resources for the coast guard? Do we know how we're going to deal with this as an international affairs issue?"
"The way I look at it, the ice becoming smaller is a whole new thing that we have to deal with, and this whole new thing we have to plan for. But we don't seem to have a plan right now, we're just kind of hoping it doesn't happen."
But what if the Conservatives want climate change?
"I like to be hopeful that that's not the case, although it's hard not to think that...I'm not going to go that far, but when you look at the constant inaction, when you look at the constant denial, you think 'How do you guys not think this is an issue? Are you not worried about it? Is that the message you're sending to me? That this could be an opportunity as opposed to a tragedy?'
"Anytime I talk about environment, [the Conservatives] talk about 'responsible resource extraction'. I'm all for responsible resource extraction. Yahoo. But that's not a replacement for protecting the environment. That's not a replacement for action on climate change."
Is Minister of the Environment Joe Oliver a climate change denier?
"Last year I asked a number of questions in the House of Joe Oliver, asking him flat-out if he believed in man-made climate change. It took him a week to answer me. I asked him every day. I stood up every day he was there, and asked him over and over again. [When] he finally answered me, he said 'Look, the science is clear that climate change is man-made.'
"So he admitted that. But for me to ask questions for a week before getting that answer? I don't know that he believes it. And if he does believe it, I don't think he believes it's a problem. That's the next question."
"I try really hard when I'm in community to talk about the power of public opinion and the power of community. I really believe that science doesn't work with convincing this government, and evidence doesn't work with convincing them. So what do we have left? We have public opinion. That is scary that that's all that we have left, but at the same time it's kind of empowering. I have seen the Conservatives act, or react, to public opinion. So maybe we concentrate on talking to our neighbours. Maybe we concentrate on community development around different issues, community awareness, and level of community education."
We learned of the China National Offshore Oil Company making a takeover bid for Nexen, one of Canada's biggest petroleum companies. What is the NDP position on this?
"You know, takeovers happen. But the thing is, CNOC is a Chinese state-owned enterprise. So this a little bit different, because we're dealing with a company where the state of China actually gets to appoint people on the board and gets to appoint people to key directorship positions. So the state of China has major influence over decision-making. There's that piece.
"In the NDP's opinion this process is broken. The Investment Canada Act says that important transactions over $330 million need to be reviewed by the Minister of Industry to determine whether or not they pose a 'net benefit to Canada'. One of the problems is that we don't have a good definition of what a 'net benefit to Canada' is."
"A couple of years ago there was an attempt by an Australian company to take over Potash Corp. And at that time there was a lot of public pressure saying 'No, no, no. You can't let this happen because Potash Corp has a net benefit to Canada.' As it all shook out, the government stepped in and stopped it from happening. But at that time the NDP put forward a motion saying 'You have to define what net benefit to Canada is, because we don't know.' We need to actually have a definition here."
"Also, with these big, giant takeovers, there needs to be some sort of consultation. We've got to actually talk to Canadians about what it is that they want to see, and what the impacts will be locally. The Conservatives actually voted for that motion, so we were pretty happy that they were taking it seriously, and that they agreed with us. But then here we are in 2012 and we still don't have the 'net benefit to Canada' definition, and we still aren't having public hearings. And then we have this CNOC bid for NEXEN. We're in the exact same position that we were in two years ago."
"The NDP voted that 'No, this takeover should be stopped'. It's too risky. It's too risky to national security. It's not just your typical company buying another company. We're talking about a country actually having access to intellectual property here in Canada, to what we think is a really important resource here in Canada, and having control over it."