EDMONTON—Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason says while federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair makes his first visit today to the oilsands, he hopes it’s not the last.
“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, along with Alberta NDP MP Linda Duncan, environment critic Megan Leslie, and energy critic Peter Julian, will tour the Suncor oilsands project near Fort McMurray this morning and speak with reporters at the provincial legislature in Edmonton in the afternoon.
Mulcair will also meet with Alberta Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, as Premier Alison Redford is out of the country.
Mulcair has been condemned in recent weeks by western premiers, including Redford, for his view that the booming oilsands have artificially boosted the value of the dollar, thereby hurting the manufacturing sector of central Canada— a phenomenon known as Dutch disease.
He won support yesterday for his thesis from a study produced 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 loonie.
As for Mulcair, he has since modified his comments, saying he’s not against development of natural resources, but wants it to be done in an environmentally friendly way.
Mason agrees. His provincial party has campaigned on sustainable growth, along with a larger share of oil royalties for taxpayers.
“We agree in general in terms of the lack of environmental stewardship by both levels of government over the oilsands,” said Mason.
“There’s no question that increased oil exports are pushing up the dollar and I don’t think there’s any question that that hurts manufacturing,” he added.
“But what the answer to that is, how we can help Ontario and Quebec’s manufacturing sector, is something not based on limiting Alberta’s opportunities.
“It’s got to be a solution helping to make those industries more competitive.”
Mason said regardless of one’s viewpoint, the discussion needs to happen.
“I hope (Mulcair’s visit) changes the debate that’s been going on. I hope that it makes it a little more civil. I hope that it makes it a little more rational and less emotional and depoliticizes it a bit.
“It’s an important conversation for this country to have.”