Linda McQuaig, the NDP candidate for the riding of Toronto Center, said that if Canada is to meet its climate change targets, “a lot of the oil sands oil may have to stay in the ground.”
Stephen Harper immediately responded by accusing the NDP of having a “not-so-hidden” agenda against the development of Canada’s natural resources. He warned the country against electing an NDP government, which would wreck the economy.
An NDP spokesperson explained that McQuaig’s comment was not party policy, but a reference to well-established international research, According to that research, keeping the increase in global warming to acceptable requires that much of the fossil fuel reserves remain in the ground.
Referring to his observations in the last leader’s debate Thomas Mulcair rejected Harper’s accusation. In that debate, he emphasized that extraction from the oil sands has to be “sustainable”: oil sands production must be compatible with Canada’s international commitments (which would include our emission targets).
Louise Comeau of Climate Action Network Canada said that the exchange shows that Canadians are in a state of fundamental denial. They do not recognize the need for large changes to our energy system
Keith Stewart of Greenpeace suggested that Canada will benefit from being a leader in bringing in the Green Energy economy, a development that will also help resolve the climate crisis. Further, oil sands extraction must be reconciled with a long term goal of a de-carbonized economy, to which Harper has committed Canada. .
Harper’s comments played well in Alberta. As the campaign continues we can expect to have similar exchanges aimed at keeping Conservative support in the Western provinces.