As we all watch the events unfolding in Japan, some of us may be watching more closely than others. Like the NDP, for example.
Over the weekend, as the whole world knows by now, one of the overheated reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi facility erupted. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan had just concluded a national television address — warning the situation was “alarming” — when reactor Number Three blew.
The blast injured a number of workers and soldiers, and was felt more 30 kms away.
Then, on Tuesday, there was another explosion, blowing a hole through the roof at one Fukushima reactor — injuring more workers and releasing radioactive steam.
Japan continues to frantically scramble to cool the reactors damaged by last week’s terrible 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami — both of which have killed an estimated 10,000 people.
Outside Japan, media organizations have been frantically scrambling, too. They’ve been particularly focused on the nuclear story, calling up experts to try and understand what may be the fallout — quite literally — of a disaster at Fukushima.
When a microphone has been pointed in their direction, Greenpeace hasn’t been shy. One Greenpeace spokesman said on the weekend — irresponsibly, and without any proof whatsoever — that nuclear reactors in Canada have “faults,” quote unquote, and there is a “realistic” chance of a Japanese-style disaster happening here.
This, despite the fact Canada’s seven reactors — five in Ontario, one in Quebec and one in New Brunswick — have been constructed in low-seismic areas, with massive concrete walls and multiple safeguards.
Over on Rabble — the website where NDP policy gestates — ominous mutterings can be found suggesting a Chernobyl-style collapse could happen here, too, with a “radioactive cloud” settling on citizens.
That’s the NGOs. But what of the NDP, now readying itself for an election campaign? Do they go along with the reckless speculation of Greenpeace and their ilk? In the past, the New Democrats have said they do not support nuclear energy, full stop. The NDP, Greenpeace happily notes, believe “nuclear energy is dangerous and prohibitively expensive.”
NDP Leader Jack Layton has spoken about the issue in the House of Commons in the past, obliquely stating our reliance on nuclear energy is “a mistake,” and we need to halt the proliferation of nuclear energy. Since disaster struck in Japan, however, Layton has keep mostly silent. He hasn’t attempted to take partisan advantage of the Japanese disaster, so far, which is to his credit.
On the campaign trail, however, the issue may prove irresistible to NDP candidates, now caught in a squeeze for votes between the Greens and the Liberals. Some of those carrying the Dipper banner can be expected to fear-monger, as Greenpeace is now doing.
That would be doing the country, and the NDP itself, no service. Terrifying people with baseless claims isn’t just despicable — it’s hypocritical.
When campaigning in 1990, for example, Ontario NDP Leader Bob Rae pledged to make Ontario a “nuclear-free zone.” But once Rae and his party won power, it didn’t take any steps to shutter the province’s nuclear reactors. It in fact invested billions in upgrading reactors and improving safety — which was the right thing to do.
Crazy things can happen during campaigns. Here’s hoping fear mongering about Japan’s troubles isn’t one of them.
— Kinsella is a lawyer, blogs at warrenkinsella.com and will appear regularly on Sun News Network