CALGARY - Federal Treasury Board President Tony Clement used a speech in the heart of Canada's oil and gas sector to launch an attack on NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and his dim view of Canada's resource industry.
Mulcair charges that booming energy exports, particularly from the oilsands, have created an artificially high dollar that has, in turn, hollowed out Canada's manufacturing sector — a phenomenon dubbed the "Dutch disease.''
"This is a reckless and irresponsible ideology that is bad for Alberta, it's bad for my home province of Ontario and quite frankly, it's bad for Canada," Clement said Wednesday in a morning speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
"He has proposed to cure the disease with much higher taxes, more burdensome regulations and endless red tape," he added.
"I can name many communities in Ontario and Quebec whose manufacturing has been saved by customers in the oil and gas and mining sectors."
Mulcair has insisted that statistics on manufacturing job losses are "irrefutable''' and that "everyone'' agrees more than half of those losses are the direct result of the artificially high Canadian dollar created by booming energy exports, particularly from Alberta's oilsands.
Clement said the only logical conclusion from Mulcair's musings would be that the NDP would "undoubtedly cripple an important and growing sector in Canada's economy."
Mulcair's views have angered Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Saskatchewan's Brad Wall.
Redford has said she won't meet with Mulcair until he visits the Fort McMurray region to educate himself about the oilsands. Mulcair is to fly into Edmonton for meetings at the end of the month.
"I toured the oilsands myself about four years ago and it's very helpful," Clement told reporters. "I hope he does see things with a critical but open eye and I think he will be impressed."
"Hope springs eternal but I can tell you if he comes back with the same rhetoric I don't think he will have given the oilsands a fair shake."
Clement said the Conservative government doesn't want the kind of rhetoric being spouted by the NDP to take hold and couldn't let it go unchallenged.
"We cannot let that debate go unmatched with our countervision. Especially damaging we feel is the idea that the way to get ahead in politics is to pitch region against region or class against class or economic sector against economic sector," said Clement.
"This may be a debate that goes on for another 3 1/2 years until the next election," he added.
"It's important that we engage in it and not just automatically say that is so patently ridiculous we don't need to respond."
NDP natural resources critic Peter Julian accused Clement of being "disingenuous" with his remarks and of attempting to draw attention away from the story.
"The main issue here is how the Harper government’s failure to make polluters pay is having serious impacts on both our environment and our economy," said Julian in an email to The Canadian Press.
"Canadians, particularly western Canadians agree that polluters should pay for the pollution they create."
Julian said the New Democrats want a diversified economy that includes value-added jobs and long-term, sustainable growth rather than an "endless cycle of boom and bust."
"This isn’t just a problem in the East. Many in Alberta and British Columbia are concerned that we're building pipelines to ship raw bitumen out of the country instead of creating value-added jobs upgrading and refining our own natural resources," he added.
A recent study by the Institute for Research on Public Policy and the latest Statistics Canada report on manufacturing output cast doubt on just how seriously Canada is afflicted by the so-called Dutch disease.
The IRPP study concludes that about one-quarter of Canadian manufacturing output is suffering due to the high dollar.