Albertans are firing back after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made comments at a town hall in Peterborough, Ontario last week suggesting that Canada should “phase out” the oilsands.
Answering a question regarding his government’s approval of pipelines, as well as his commitment to the environment, Trudeau replied, “You can’t make a choice between what’s good for the environment and what’s good for the economy. We can’t shut down the oilsands tomorrow. We need to phase them out. We need to manage the transition off of our dependence on fossil fuels.
“That is going to take time. And in the meantime, we have to manage that transition.”
Alberta politicians were quick to fire back with Ric McIver, Progressive Conservative interim leader and MLA for Calgary-Hays, saying, “I am incredibly disappointed to see our prime minister target Alberta’s oilsands. It’s unfortunate to see him side with Hollywood celebrities by vowing to phase out our oilsands. Albertans expect better from our prime minister.
“Alberta’s oilsands create thousands of mortgage-paying jobs for Canadians across the country. As a major driver behind the national economy, our oilsands have a direct and positive impact on the lives of all Canadian families. Phasing out our oilsands would cripple our national economy.”
McIver also encouraged Trudeau to spend some time in the oilsands before forming an opinion.
“Alberta entrepreneurs and businesses are working hard to keep our economy moving forward while protecting our environment. If the prime minister knew about this great work, he would know that we do not need to phase out the oilsands. I invite Prime Minister Trudeau to come to Alberta and have this conversation with those that would be most affected.”
In an already sluggish economy, the comments made by Trudeau are tough to take.
The oilsands provide thousands of jobs for Albertans and in a time when jobs are hard to come by, the prospect of losing that many more jobs is a scary thought.
Other politicians weighing in included Wildrose Leader Brian Jean.
“Mr. Trudeau seems to have some flawed ideas about the oilsands, so I think he should visit us up here in northern Alberta and find out what the oilsands truly mean to Fort McMurray, Alberta and all of Canada,” he said. “If the prime minister is truly committed to phasing out the oilsands, he will need to tell us to our faces, not from some perch in Ontario. I’d be happy to show him around and introduce him to the residents of our community.”
Jean said Trudeau will be in Alberta for a Cabinet retreat in late January, and could plan a visit around then.
“The oilsands have been the economic engine of Canada for many, many years, and the people who make their living in the oilsands deserve to speak to their prime minister face-to-face.”
David Swann and the Alberta Liberals also fully support the oil and gas industry and he called on Trudeau to clarify his remarks.
Alberta’s oilsands industry is both environmentally responsible and generates hundreds of thousands of jobs both here and across Canada, he said.
“All of us, including the oil and gas industry, already recognize that we are in a transition to cleaner energy,” said Swann. “In the current international economic climate the industry does not need any more uncertainty about its future. We need our prime minister to not only support this industry, the economic engine of the country, but to communicate that clearly.”
Trudeau has yet to clarify his remarks. As the pressure for him to do so continues into this week, we’ll have to wait and see if anything comes to fruition. In the meantime, you can be sure Albertans will put up a fight.