Federal NDP leadership candidate Brian Topp targets tar-sands economics

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      The first candidate in the federal NDP leadership race says he opposes the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and wants rich people to pay more taxes. In an interview at the Georgia Straight office, Brian Topp claimed that the $7-billion project, which includes a 2,673-kilometre pipeline, is economic “madness”. The pipeline will transport raw bitumen from Alberta to Texas, where it will be refined into petroleum products that will be shipped back to Canada.

      “I think it is a fundamentally wrong economic choice and a wrong environmental choice with enormous consequences on the streets of Vancouver and all across the country,” Topp said.

      Calgary-based TransCanada Corporation has faced intense opposition from environmental activists on both sides of the border, who point out that oil from the tar sands results in significantly more greenhouse-gas emissions because it requires energy to separate it from the rock. Topp acknowledged that the environmental consequences are “shocking” and said that Canada should “produce a great deal less hydrocarbon energy”. But his main criticisms were on the economic front, suggesting that Canada is “throwing a raw resource to somebody else’s industrial economy for them to get the value and the benefit from”.

      “We’re robbing our children of the value of this resource,” he said.

      Topp, who was elected NDP president in June, insisted that the federal and Alberta governments are “blighting the rest of our economy” by not following the approach of the Norwegians in dealing with the bounty of oil wealth. He explained that Norway has put its revenues into a separate investment fund rather than relying on this money as the primary method of funding government operations. As a result, Norway has prepared itself for when the economy must make adjustments as oil production diminishes.

      In addition, Norway can reduce the impact of oil wealth on its currency by investing this bounty abroad. He contrasted that with the Canadian dollar becoming a “petrocurrency” as a result of the rising oil revenues, which hollows out other parts of the economy because other exports become less competitive.

      He said that some Canadian premiers talked in the 1970s about setting aside resource royalties in separate funds, which would preserve this wealth for future generations. “But they were succeeded by recklessly irresponsible right-wing governments that wanted to pretend that they were low-tax jurisdictions, while becoming addicted to resource revenues,” Topp maintained.

      Topp said that as a result, corporate and personal-income taxes were sharply reduced, but spending on public services continued to be funded by money from natural resources. (The B.C. government, for instance, collects hundreds of millions of dollars per year in natural-gas royalties.) Topp said the effect was governments “taxing their grandchildren through a resource rip-off”.

      He emphasized that provincial governments have authority over natural resources, so it will take a great deal of public education to convince Albertans of the wisdom of not proceeding with the Keystone XL pipeline. “Before we talk about the mechanics of how we should stop this—and let’s be clear, I think it should be stopped—I think we first need to win the battle of ideas in Alberta,” he said.

      Topp called for a “more progressive personal-income tax system, including higher rates on higher-income earners”. He added that, in principle, he favours additional tax brackets for higher-income earners.

      Topp coauthored the 2011 party platform and was a close adviser for many years to the recently deceased leader, Jack Layton. “New Democrats have never been in a position to form a national government before,” he said. “Now we are. This is the gift Jack Layton gave us.”

      Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.




      Sep 29, 2011 at 8:02am

      Go for it! Tax the elite bastards. They've ripped off everone else for years. Cut taxes to the corporations and rich they say yet they feed off public projects and want those to continue at an accelerated pace. Who pays for them? Lets just say, "it aint the rich". Who benefits the most from the spending we pay for? Only the corporations and the elite!

      Arthur Vandelay

      Sep 29, 2011 at 10:22am

      Mr. Topp seems to have excluded any facts and went straight for the usual red meat. He seems to believe that the "rich” in Canada are somehow untaxed. In Ontario and Quebec, which have about 62% of Canada's population, the average top personal tax rate is 47.3%. If you go further and include BC, Canada’s third largest province (now 75% of Canada's population), the average top personal tax rate is 46.1%. And these rates apply to taxable income over $127,000/year. These rates are consistent with most industrialzed countries around the world. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_rates_around_the_world)
      Mr. Topp is feeding off what is happening currently in the US media, which is not what is happening in Canada.
      When Mr. Topp speaks of the “rich”, I’d watch out for his definition, you may just be “rich” without even knowing it.


      Sep 29, 2011 at 11:22am

      RonS - a true class warrior, anyone worth more than him must be driven into poverty for his benefit. As for Topp, Alberta is a lost cause so why not appeal to the watermelon eco-weenies in Canada by attacking the oil sands? KeystoneXL is going to go ahead and all the huffing and puffing of the looney left can't prevent that.


      Sep 29, 2011 at 6:25pm

      The Keystone pipelinie, barely more than a year old, has sprung about a dozen leaks. It has been proposed that the Keystone XL pipeline be constructed of THINNER materials. Yet no one seems to give a damn about the leaks of the first Keystone pipeline, as well the inevitability of leaks in the "bigger, better" version.

      Now why is it that posters (such as NoLeftNutter) don't give a damn about the damage abd suffering it causes others? Because (s)he doesn't live anywhere close to the pipeline?


      Daniel Williamson

      Sep 29, 2011 at 7:12pm

      Too bad that NoLeftNutter lost a testicle somehow. That appears to have reduced his brainpower to an IQ of about 26. Sending OUR oil down to usa for processing is INSANE. We need the petroleum products for our use. I live in BC but I was born in Alberta so I have as much rights in this regard as anyone else.


      Sep 30, 2011 at 8:41am

      Daniel - you may have rights but you don't have many brains. If you wanted all the refined products to be shipped via pipeline you'd need 8 pipelines. And, if you think transferring crude oil poses some risks imagine how a 3000km long gas bomb would affect the environment if someone torched it.


      Sep 30, 2011 at 1:22pm

      Tut, tut NLN! Peter Lougheed says bitumen should be refined in Canada.
      Furthermore, every time Canada exports 400,000 barrels of raw bitumen, economists calculate that the nation sends approximately 18,000 upgrading and refining jobs abroad and reduces Canada's GDP by 0.2 per cent.
      As far as "torching" a gasoline pipeline, when was the last time that happened here?



      Oct 1, 2011 at 5:43pm

      Brian Topp is clearly in a league of his own. He understands the Keyston XL Pipeline</a> issue inside out. As well, he understands the finer points of our economy</a>. But more than that, he is recognized as a supreme tactician and strategist by many</a> across Canada and not just in the NDP.


      Oct 9, 2011 at 5:38pm

      The BC citizens are pinning their hopes for jobs on the Enbridge pipeline, mines and ship building.

      China bought a huge chunk of the tar sands. Don't be surprised, if their own people get hired first, as workers quit or leave for what ever reasons.

      What is happening. The tear down of the smelter contract in Kitimat is an American company. They brought their own workers with them. The few Canadians who did get jobs, were treated like dirt by the Americans. Our people didn't even get safety gear. They were forced to breathe the aluminum dust. The American workers, did have safety gear. The abuse was so bad, some of our people quit. Aluminum dust is a dangerous health hazzard.

      China is giving their people, a crash course in speaking English and about mining in Canada. They will work our coal mines.

      If the seven mines in Northern BC that are coming are American or Chinese, they again will bring their own miners.

      If BC gets a part of the ship building contract. Christy Clark said, SeaSpan will get the contract. They are another American company, which will bring their own ship builders.

      Even BC's raw logs go to China. Our BC workers don't even get the processing work. Mills will become obsolete. Gordon Campbell shipped some BC mills to China. He cost 131,000 BC mill workers their jobs. He shut down 51 mills. Labor in China is cheap, child labor is even more cheap.

      Canadian citizens really need jobs. However, Canadians don't even get the refinery work, for the tar sands oil.

      If people will read: Harper gives a speech in New York, at the Council of Foreign Relations. Sept. 25/2007. Be afraid Canadian citizens. Be very afraid.

      roger bakke

      Aug 17, 2015 at 8:17am

      but if we refine the resource here our greenhouse gas emissions would go up in canada then the ndp would want to take more taxes from alberta.and they would screem even louder about ng shutting the TAR sands down.if the ndp get in we will suffer for years trying to recover