Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says he isn't pitting Canada's East against the West, in prepared remarks to provincial New Democrats gathered for a party convention in Winnipeg on Saturday.
"Those are Stephen Harper's battle lines," Mulcair said on his last day of a three-day tour of the Prairies. "Not mine."
Mulcair's controversial "Dutch Disease" comments unleashed a fury of reaction from federal Conservatives and western premiers alike who called his comments "divisive", "goofy" and intended to divide the country.
The NDP leader dismissed the premiers' criticism by calling them "messengers" for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Since then, Mulcair did not repeat his comment about the premiers but has stood by his theory that the Canadian dollar is being held "artificially high" by the oilsands causing the economy harm in other parts of the country.
During a heated exchange in question period, Conservative cabinet minister James Moore called on Mulcair to apologize for "suggesting the strength of the western Canadian economy is a disease on Canada."
Conservatives have maintained all along that the success of Alberta's oilsands have brought dividends not just to the Prairies but to the rest of the country as well.
In prepared remarks to Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and his New Democrats, Mulcair said Harper's "failed environmental policies" are having "serious" economic consequences.
Environment Minister Peter Kent has said that the changes in the government's budget bill are merely intended to update "decade-old" environmental laws.
But in Saturday's prepared remarks, the Official Opposition leader blamed what he called the prime minister's "handouts to a few favoured industries" for an artificial rise in the value of the Canadian dollar.
"An artificially high dollar makes our exports more expensive. That's just simple economics," he said.
While in Alberta on Thursday, Mulcair said his beef was with the federal government and not the premiers.
On Saturday, Mulcair sided with Selinger and other premiers who have accused Ottawa of not consulting with them on issues like health funding, immigration reform, and employment insurance.
"Without a single consultation, the Conservatives are short-changing provinces by a whopping $31 billion," he said.
However, Conservative cabinet ministers like Diane Finley and Peter Mackay, who are responsible for touting the benefits of the government's latest budget, have said that they consulted with Canadians "extensively."
In a written statement to CBC News on Saturday, Andrew MacDougall, director of communications for the prime minister said, "Mulcair has it exactly backwards.
"The prime minister is governing for all regions while Mulcair slags premiers and tries to pit province against province," said MacDougall.
Mulcair said the federal New Democrats would create more jobs, promote sustainable development and protect the services that Canadians rely on in an effort to defeat the Conservatives in 2015.
The three-day tour saw the NDP leader visiting Alberta's oil sands on Thursday and meeting some of Canada's city mayors in Saskatoon on Friday.
Syncrude Upgrader and Oil Sands
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.
Boreal Forest and Coast Mountains / Atlin Lake, British Columbia | 2001
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.
Tailings Pond in Winter, Abstract #2 / Alberta Tar Sands | 2010
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.
Aspen and Spruce | Northern Alberta | 2001
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.
Tar Sands at Night #1 | Alberta Oil Sands | 2010
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.
Dry Tailings #2 | Alberta Tar Sands | 2010
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.
Tailings Pond Abstract #2 | Alberta Tar Sands / 2010
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.
Confluence of Carcajou River and Mackenzie River | Mackenzie Valley, NWT | 2005
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.
Black Cliff | Alberta Oil Sands | 2005
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.
Oil Sands Upgrader in Winter| Alberta Oil Sands | 2010
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.
Boreal Forest and Wetland | Athabasca Delta Northern Alberta | 2010
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.
Tar Pit #3
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.