The Conservatives continued to hammer NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair Friday, suggesting he is pitting the Prairies against Ontario and Eastern Canada.
Mulcair told CBC Radio last week he believes Alberta’s oilsands are artificially inflating the Canadian dollar and hollowing out the manufacturing sector in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.
“It’s by definition the Dutch disease,” Mulcair said, referring to how a natural gas find in the Netherlands led to manufacturing declines in the 1960s.
“The Canadian dollar is being held artificially high, which is fine if you are going to Walt Disney World, not so good if you want to sell your manufactured product, because the American client, most of the time, can no longer afford to buy it,” he said on the CBC program "The House."
Mulcair went on to say that Conservatives are responsible for the loss of 500,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs in the last six years because the oilsands were not being developed in an environmentally conscious way and that industry should be forced to pay “now” for the pollution it's causing.
Mulcair’s comments plagued him all week and Friday Finance Minister Jim Flaherty as well as five Tory MPs in question period piled on some more.
Flaherty accused Mulcair of not understanding how the oilsands affect Canada's economy.
“What we see in Canada is a sharing of the wealth,'' Flaherty said at a news conference in Toronto.
''When we have a strong resource sector, as we do in Western Canada and in Newfoundland and Labrador, then we see manufacturers all across the country — including Ontario — profit from that.”
In the House of Commons, Ontario MP Larry Miller called the NPD the "no development party" and said its leader is “attacking the economic success of the Prairie provinces.”
Saskatchewan MP Ed Komarnicki said Mulcair is “trying to pit Canadians against one another instead of supporting sectors of the economy that create good high-paying jobs.”
Alberta MP Blaine Clakins accused the NPD leader of calling an important resource sector “a disease.”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who came to Mulcair’s defence in chamber, said Conservative MPs were distorting a well-known term in economic literature for political gain.
NDP MP Peter Julian declined to tell The Huffington Post Canada that his leader should have chosen different words. “When we talk about the Dutch disease, everyone knows what that means,” he insisted.
“[Mulcair] raised reality,” Julian, the NDP’s critic for Energy and Natural Resources said. “The Canadian economy is unhealthy.”
“When we lose manufacturing jobs in B.C., when we lose manufacturing jobs in Alberta, we lose manufacturing jobs in other parts of the country, that should be a real concern,” Julian said. “When we see that those jobs are replaced with … jobs that are paying us $10,000 a year less on average than the jobs we have lost, that is something that everyone should be concerned about.”
The Conservative attack doesn't worry Julian.
“Every week the Conservatives are going to try to shoot back at us, every week,” he said. “The facts are on our side."
Writing in The Globe and Mail this week, economist Stephen Gordon argued the appreciating Canadian dollar has little to do with the decline of manufacturing, which has been happening for decades.
Manufacturing is contributing less and less to GDP on both sides of the border and the Americans don’t export any oil, Carleton University’s Ian Lee told HuffPost. It not only takes less people to produce the same goods today than in years past, but Canada is facing increased pressure due to globalization and cheap goods from abroad, Lee said.
Although Lee suspects the NDP is trying to court southern Ontario voters who have lost their jobs in the manufacturing sector, he believes the move is a risky strategy for a party that needs to grow its Western base.
“If he tries to appeal to [his base] by coming out with policies that are critical of the oilsands, he risks alienating Western Canada like the Liberal Party did in 1981, 82 and 83,” Lee said.
"The Libearl Party is [still] essentially shut out of Western Canada and that is because of the National Energy Program. And so if Mulcair is trying to broaden the base of the NDP, this is not the way to do it."
With files from The Canadian Press.
The refining or upgrading of the tarry bitumen which lies under the oil sands consumes far more oil and energy than conventional oil and produces almost twice as much carbon. Each barrel of oil requires 3-5 barrels of fresh water from the neighboring Athabasca River. About 90% of this is returned as toxic tailings into the vast unlined tailings ponds that dot the landscape. Syncrude alone dumps 500,000 tons of toxic tailings into just one of their tailings ponds everyday.
This area, located in the extreme northwest of British Columbia, marks the western boundary of the Boreal region. On the border of the Yukon and Southeast Alaska, the western flank of these mountains descends into Alaska's Tongass Rainforest and British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest. Far from the oil sands, the greatest remaining coastal temperate and marine ecosystem is imminently threatened by the proposal to build a 750-mile pipeline to pump 550,000 barrels per day of oil sands crude to the coast. Once there, it would be shipped through some of the most treacherous waters, virtually assuring an ecological disaster at some point in the future.
Even in the extreme cold of the winter, the toxic tailings ponds do not freeze. On one particularly cold morning, the partially frozen tailings, sand, liquid tailings and oil residue, combined to produce abstractions that reminded me of a Jackson Pollock canvas.
Photographed in late autumn in softly falling snow, a solitary spruce is set against a sea of aspen. The Boreal Forest of northern Canada is perhaps the best and largest example of a largely intact forest ecosystem. Canada's Boreal Forest alone stores an amount of carbon equal to ten times the total annual global emissions from all fossil fuel consumption.
Twenty four hours a day the oil sands eats into the most carbon rich forest ecosystem on the planet. Storing almost twice as much carbon per hectare as tropical rainforests, the boreal forest is the planet's greatest terrestrial carbon storehouse. To the industry, these diverse and ecologically significant forests and wetlands are referred to as overburden, the forest to be stripped and the wetlands dredged and replaced by mines and tailings ponds so vast they can be seen from outer space.
In an effort to deal with the problem of tailings ponds, Suncor is experimenting with dry tailings technology. This has the potential to limit, or eliminate, the need for vast tailings ponds in the future and lessen this aspect of the oil sands' impact.
So large are the Alberta Tar Sands tailings ponds that they can be seen from space. It has been estimated by Natural Resources Canada that the industry to date has produced enough toxic waste to fill a canal 32 feet deep by 65 feet wide from Fort McMurray to Edmonton, and on to Ottawa, a distance of over 2,000 miles. In this image, the sky is reflected in the toxic and oily waste of a tailings pond.
The Caracajou River winds back and forth creating this oxbow of wetlands as it joins the Mackenzie flowing north to the Beaufort Sea. This region, almost entirely pristine, and the third largest watershed basin in the world, will be directly impacted by the proposed Mackenzie Valley National Gas Pipeline to fuel the energy needs of the Alberta Oil Sands mega-project.
Oil sands pit mining is done in benches or steps. These benches are each approximately 12-15 meters high. Giant shovels dig the oil sand and place it into heavy hauler trucks that range in size from 240 tons to the largest trucks, which have a 400-ton capacity.
The Alberta oil sands are Canada's single largest source of carbon. They produce about as much annually as the nation of Denmark. The refining of the tar-like bitumen requires more water and uses almost twice as much energy as the production of conventional oil. Particularly visible in winter, vast plumes of toxic pollution fill the skies. The oil sands are so large they create their own weather systems.
Located just 70 miles downstream from the Alberta oil sands, the Athabasca Delta is the world's largest freshwater delta. It lies at the convergence of North America's four major flyways and is a critical stopover for migrating waterfowl and considered one of the most globally significant wetlands. It is threatened both by the massive water consumption of the tar sands and its toxic tailings ponds.
This network of roads reminded me of a claw or tentacles. It represents for me the way in which the tentacles of the tar sands reach out and wreak havoc and destruction. Proposed pipelines to American Midwest, Mackenzie Valley, and through the Great Bear Rainforest will bring new threats to these regions while the pipelines fuel new markets and ensure the proposed five fold expansion of the oil sands.