Mulcair stands by his oilsands views after Alta. visit
Published Thursday, May 31, 2012 10:22PM EDT
Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair stuck to his message of enforcing environmental legislation and making companies pay environmental costs Thursday after taking a tour of the oilsands.
Mulcair told reporters in Edmonton he supports the sustainable development of the oilsands. He also insisted that his fight is not with the provinces, but with the federal government.
Mulcair said the federal government is not taking environmental concerns related to oilsands development seriously.
"Increasingly we find that if companies in certain sectors don't obey environmental laws, the government doesn't demand they change their behaviour, instead the government just changes the law," he said.
Mulcair told reporters how happy he was to see the oilsands and how impressed he was with the scope of the various projects taking place. However, Mulcair added that there are serious environmental concerns which need to be recognized.
"We already have lots of information on the fact that even with water there's serious problems and ecosystems at risk," he said.
Mulcair maintained that his party wants to develop the oilsands with a policy of sustainable development, which would largely see the enforcement of existing environmental legislation, as well as making companies pay the environmental cost of production.
"We think these resources can and should be developed on a sustainable basis," he said.
Mulcair also stuck to his "Dutch disease" theory—the theory that the booming oilsands have artificially boosted the dollar and hurt manufacturing in central Canada-- referencing several reports he says support his thesis.
"Our thesis has always been that one of the reasons why we have an artificially high number of U.S. dollars coming in is because we haven't internalized the environmental costs-- we haven't included those costs in the products," he said.
Mulcair said the government has given companies "a bit of a free ride" in terms of using the air, soil and water. This has lead to an artificially high number of U.S. dollars in our economy which affects our currency, said Mulcair.
That effect on the currency is hurting all export sectors—not just manufacturing, said Mulcair.
"It affects forestry, it affects agriculture, it affects fisheries and of course it affects manufacturing," he said.
Not everyone who met with Mulcair shared his views.
Alberta deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk told CTV's Power Play Thursday he made it clear to the opposition leader that Alberta will not tolerate being "used" for political points.
"I have advised Mr. Mulcair that any attacks on this province will not be received in a welcoming fashion," he said.
"I have also advised him that any political posturing that perhaps reminds us of days past, where one would pit one part of the country against another, would not be well received in this province."
Lukaszuk said that Albertans are interested in making sure that all industries in Canada are prosperous.
"If we are to be competitive as Canadians in the world market, the entire country must be prosperous," he said. "We also realize that our extraction of natural resources in this province is not just for the benefit of Alberta, but it's for the benefit of all of Canada."
Earlier on Thursday, Mulcair rolled into oilsands country with a cloud of controversy swirling over his head, but few in Fort McMurray seemed to notice.
Nobody stopped to talk to the New Democrat firebrand, who recently shot down the province's lucrative oil industry stating it was bad for the Canadian economy and environment.
Mulcair, not one to remain silent for long, didn't have much to say either as he strolled into city hall for a meeting with Mayor Melissa Blake.
After the meeting, Blake said Mulcair made some valid points about the industry, adding she didn't entirely disagree with his concerns over environmental sustainability.
Before meeting Blake, Mulcair toured energy giant Suncor's project in Fort McMurray in the heart of the province's oilsands region.
The NDP and Official Opposition leader has faced heated criticism from western premiers for his "Dutch disease" comments, which they say are ill-informed and target the West.
Premier Alison Redford, who is in the United States, has been criticized for being out of the country during Mulcair's visit.
"He's public enemy to an extent," Calgary Herald columnist Licia Corbella told CTV News Channel Thursday.
"I think with Albertans, what they're hoping to do is show him the incredible amount of engineering that goes into this and a great amount of reclamation," she said in an interview from Calgary.
But Corbella doubts Mulcair is really in the province on a fact-finding mission.
"It sounds like he's going to do a fly-past and then he's going to go to a control room at the Suncor plant," she said.
Corbella said she doesn't believe Mulcair wants to see reclaimed forests or tour rivers where oil naturally seeps into the water from the banks.
"That would blow his whole modus operandi, or his whole pattern on the oilsands," she said.
Provincial NDP Leader Brian Mason takes a more moderate approach and hopes the visit isn't Mulcair's last to the oilsands.
"I'm hoping this is just the first of a number of visits from Mr. Mulcair," said Mason.
"I'm hoping he'll come back to Alberta again, meet with more Albertans, more business leaders, more union leaders and the environmental community."
Mulcair won support for his earlier "Dutch disease" comments Wednesday, with the release of a study by the Alberta-based Pembina Institute.
It concluded that Canada is suffering from a unique strain of Dutch disease, dubbed "oilsands fever," the benefits of which are unevenly shared across the country and could lead to economic turmoil down the road.
But another report, by the Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier Institute, countered that the cross-country benefits of the West's energy resources far outweigh any ill-effects caused by the higher dollar.