B.C. Green Liberal Caucus tries to wield its influence in leadership races
They’re not looking for the next Wilfrid Laurier or Lester B. Pearson to lead the Liberal Party of Canada. Instead, they’re hoping for someone relevant in this time of climate change and oil spills, someone who thinks and talks like Skeena–Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.
Just as they backed Cullen to lead the federal NDP, members of the so-called B.C. Green Liberal Caucus may play a similar role in the national Liberal party’s leadership race. They’ll go for somebody who’ll oppose the growth of tar-sands production in Alberta and the expansion of pipeline and tanker operations in British Columbia.
“Whoever has guts and would stand up and take a real stance and talk about the things that are really going to be necessary in order to prevent catastrophic climate change or to prevent catastrophic oil spills in B.C., that’s what’s going to get our interest,” caucus member Jon Cooksey told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
According to the creator of the award-winning ecodocumentary How to Boil a Frog, Cullen was very clear about his position on tar-sands exploitation, pipelines, and tanker traffic.
“At this point, I’m not seeing anybody on that level yet,” Cooksey said about declared and perceived aspirants to the leadership of the federal Liberal party. Cooksey’s caucus is an independent group within the B.C. Liberal Party. It has an extensive network focused on environmental concerns.
He maintained that B.C. has “a very special place” in the contest for the Liberal leadership because of the serious environmental issues facing the province.
There’s the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. This will transport 525,000 barrels of oil condensate per day through two pipelines running 1,177 kilometres from Bruderheim, Alberta, to Kitimat, B.C.
Last spring, Kinder Morgan announced plans to twin its 60-year-old Trans Mountain Pipeline, which spans 1,150 kilometres, from Edmonton to Burnaby. This will increase the capacity of the system from 300,000 barrels of oil products a day to 750,000 barrels.
Both projects will see more tankers plying B.C. waters, and will give China and other rising Asian economic powerhouses more access to Canadian oil that is also sought by the U.S.
Federal Liberals will select a new leader sometime in mid-2013. Although several names have been mentioned as potential strong candidates, Quebec MP Justin Trudeau will be a top pick if he decides to enter the competition.
In the interview, Cooksey recalled an incident in Parliament wherein the son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau shouted “You piece of shit,” at Conservative environment minister Peter Kent.
The incident happened last December during question period. NDP MP Megan Leslie was asking about the government’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. Kent suggested that Leslie should have attended the UN climate-change conference in Durban, South Africa. Heckling followed because the government had prevented opposition MPs from joining Canada’s delegation to the meeting.
“It may not be the most parliamentarian sort of behaviour, but at least he’s got some passion about it,” Cooksey said about Trudeau’s action. “But he hasn’t thrown himself in the ring.”
The West Coast may have a candidate. David Merner, a Victoria-based provincial-government lawyer, is raising funds for a possible bid.
“We need to look at what are the issues where we can cooperate across the political spectrum,” Merner told the Straight in a phone interview. He said these include the wide opposition in B.C. to increased tanker traffic.
Until he becomes an official candidate, Merner will remain an adviser to Leadnow, a grassroots organization that advocates cooperation among political parties to defeat the Conservatives. Cullen promoted this idea during the federal NDP leadership race. Merner said that he will do the same if he decides to enter the Liberal contest.
According to Leadnow executive director Jamie Biggar, his group is seeing popular support for electoral cooperation across the country. “A one-time agreement to cooperate followed by a commitment to pass electoral reform would go a long way to fix the democratic crisis,” Biggar told the Straight in a phone interview.
Screenwriter Tarah Stafford is Cooksey’s colleague in the B.C. Green Liberal Caucus. The mother of three wants to hear more from people who plan to lead the federal Liberal party.
She noted that although Cullen didn’t succeed in becoming the NDP’s top honcho, victor and New Democrat leader Thomas Mulcair “seems to be taking bold steps” in talking about how the tar sands are affecting the environment and
Talking about the Liberal leadership search in a phone interview with the Straight, Stafford said: “We’re looking to support a candidate that has the courage to really stand up for our future and talk about real change and hope.”