Jean Chretien Hints Neil Young Should Stick To Music, Says 'We're Not About To Not Need Oil'

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Jean Chretien thinks Neil Young should stick to music. (CP/YouTube)
Jean Chretien thinks Neil Young should stick to music. (CP/YouTube)

Jean Chretien apparently thinks Neil Young should stick to music.

The former prime minister recently sat down with George Stroumboulopoulos and, in an interview that will air Monday night, he compared the Canadian rock icon weighing in on complex oilsands issues with Chretien suddenly joining the entertainment business.

"He's a great artist but I would not become a singer tomorrow," Chretien said. "It will be a disaster."

While Chretien said Young is entitled to express himself as he sees fit, it's clear the Liberal legend believes developing the oilsands makes sense.

"I think it's a resource that has to be eventually developed. And protecting the environment – that's very important," he said. "But oil is oil and we still have cars and we're not about to not need oil. We have oil that God put in the ground in Canada. We have to develop it in a responsible way."

The former prime minister also suggested that with advancements in technology, he is not put off by the idea of pipelines.

"If we can put a man on the moon, you can get oil out of the ground and put it safely into a pipe," he said.

Chretien, who also served as minister of Indian affairs and northern development under Pierre Trudeau for "for six years, two months, three days and four hours," also briefly addressed some concerns expressed by First Nations communities.

"Of course the natives were living there, so they have to be compensated," Chretien said. "They lived a different way, but the natives don't live anymore from hunting and trapping. It's not a way to live anymore. It's a new reality that they face."

Young launched a blistering attack on the Harper Conservatives and Alberta's oilsands this week as part of his "Honour the Treaties" tour to raise funds for a northern Alberta reserve's fight against oilsands development.

At a press conference in Toronto last Sunday with members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Young accused the Harper government of ignoring science to drive corporate profits.

"Canada is trading integrity for money," he said. "That's what's happening under the current leadership in Canada, which is a very poor imitation of the George Bush administration in the United States and is lagging behind on the world stage. It's an embarrassment to any Canadians."

He also said he was "shattered" after visiting a Fort McMurray industrial site, comparing it to the atomic bomb-devastated wreckage of Hiroshima, Japan.

Residents of Fort McMurray responded by posting beautiful pictures from around town to Twitter.

Jason MacDonald, Harper's top spokesperson, hit back with a press release.

"Even the lifestyle of a rock star relies, to some degree, on the resources developed by thousands of hard-working Canadians every day," MacDonald said in a statement. "Our government recognizes the importance of developing resources responsibly and sustainably and we will continue to ensure that Canada's environmental laws and regulations are rigorous."

And a pro-oil pressure group with ties to the Harper government launched an attack site, NeilYoungLies.ca, to discredit the musician.

In addition to sparking plenty of debate, Young's concert series raised more than $550,000 this week for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation's legal fund.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who feted Chretien at a tribute dinner this week, also supports oilsands development and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Yet, Trudeau says a lack of sound climate change policies from the Harper government is preventing the project from moving forward.

Chretien's full interview with Stroumboulopoulos airs Monday, January 27 at 7 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on CBC.

With files from The Canadian Press

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