Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Ottawa promises to protect tar sands from economic crisis

Ottawa promises to protect oilsands from economic crisis
Mike De Souza, Canwest News Service
Published: Friday, December 05, 2008

OTTAWA - The Harper government pledged to protect the oilsands sector from economic uncertainty as it challenged opposition parties on Friday to explain how their proposed coalition would regulate pollution from the western Canadian industry.

Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt said the policies of the Liberals and New Democrats could damage Canada's economy because they have not considered the long-term implications of some of their views on the energy sector.

"We know for a fact that Jack Layton, who is one of the ringleaders of this coalition, wants to shut down oilsands production completely . . . and pointed to it as a blight and horrible thing," said Raitt. "When they're asked and pushed about what the coalition's policy is on oilsands development, they can't provide any answers. They don't know. They haven't thought that far ahead."

Describing the oilsands sector as one of the foundations of the Canadian economy, Raitt suggested the Liberal and New Democratic coalition would not be able to provide the "strong and stable leadership" expected from the industry.

The opposition parties fired back that the Conservatives were causing uncertainty by failing to introduce long-awaited regulations on greenhouse-gas emissions from large industrial facilities.

Raitt was unable to say when her own government would introduce its complete plan.

"In a perfect world, it would be great to predict," Raitt said. "Obviously, I don't have a timeline that I can give you, and what we're focusing on is getting that kind of feedback from industry."

Raitt also said she wanted to consult opposition parties about the government's policies, but the NDP's natural resources critic, Nathan Cullen, said she was off to a poor start by incorrectly suggesting that his party wanted to shut down oilsands development.

"I think she should remember her responsibility to Canadians to represent the truth," said Cullen. "This pattern of spreading fear is (part of) this government's desperate cling to power. It's unfortunate."

Environment Minister Jim Prentice indicated last month that the government wanted to balance its environmental and economic policies to ensure potential regulations would not exacerbate the existing economic uncertainty.

Cullen said members of the coalition have discussed implementing targets to reduce pollution significantly below 1990 levels, which were proposed in climate-change legislation introduced over the past two years by opposition parties, but rejected by the Conservatives. He said the coalition would be flexible about adjusting its timelines to achieve targets, depending on when the regulations are introduced. But he stressed the goals would be consistent with industry standards around the world.

"Industry has told us consistently they need certainty for pollution regulations to make investments and clean up their act," Cullen said. "This (Conservative) government has never given clear direction. It's a path of intentional sabotage on the environment, and a wild-west mentality to development."

Liberal natural resources critic Navdeep Bains said the Conservatives were trying to use the oilsands as a political wedge issue by pitting one part of the country against the other. But he said the coalition was better positioned to introduce policies to protect the Alberta industry.

"The coalition is about building consensus, and I'm confident that we will build consensus that looks at supporting development in a sustainable way," said Bains.

© Canwest News Service 2008


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