05/28/2012 05:50 EDT | Updated 07/28/2012 05:12 EDT

BC Liberals try to corner NDP on Mulcair's 'Dutch Disease' comments

VICTORIA - Western premiers are expected to roundly condemn Thomas Mulcair's position on resource extraction when they meet this week, but B.C.'s governing Liberals are finding there might be something to love in the federal NDP leader's controversial statements.

The B.C. Liberals, badly lagging behind the provincial NDP in the polls a year before next May's provincial election, introduced a resolution in the legislature Monday clearly aimed at painting the opposition into a corner.

"Be it resolved that this house unanimously reject the position stated by Thomas Mulcair that resource extraction in western provinces is bad for Canada," stated the motion, introduced by Liberal Bill Bennett, who sits on the party's re-election committee.

"We support resource extraction because of all the great jobs that it provides here in British Columbia," Bennett told the legislature.

"I'm trying to be as sensitive as I can because I'm trying to be as fair as I can to the Opposition."

NDP house leader John Horgan initially balked at having the motion debated, but later said Mulcair's argument had been repeatedly misrepresented.

Mulcair has suggested Alberta oil exports raise the value of the Canadian dollar, which in turn hurts the economy in other parts of the country.

The phenomenon is dubbed "Dutch Disease" — a reference to the manufacturing decline that occurred in the Netherlands after a boom in natural gas exports in the 1970s.

Mulcair immediately came under vigorous criticism from the federal Conservatives, who have accused him of pitting east and west.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has also had harsh words for Mulcair and Alberta Premier Alison Redford has said she won't meet with Mulcair until he visits the Fort McMurray region to educate himself about the oilsands.

That visit is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

Bennett said B.C. created 20,000 new net jobs last month because the government is pro-development and pro-trade.

"We're not ashamed to say that," he said.

"This is a glorious opportunity for the Opposition to stand and explain what their policies are on resource extraction and disavow themselves from the statements made by their federal ruler."

But the NDP noted Premier Christy Clark has been silent on the development of the Enbridge Northern Gateway expansion, although Redford and the federal government have touted it as a nationally important project.

The B.C. Liberals have steadfastly said they would await the outcome of year-long environmental hearings into the project.

"We know that First Nations in northern B.C. are unanimously opposed to this project, we know that local governments are opposed to this project, and we know that the premiers of Alberta and Ontario have made their views be known on this project," said New Democrat Doug Donaldson.

"Yet this government, the premier, has not made her views be known on this project. She has not come out and said what she thinks of the project, whether it should go ahead or whether it should not go ahead, and that's just a lack of leadership."

NDP members argued Mulcair has been trying to make the point that he is against resource extraction that is not sustainable.

A clearly irritated Horgan accused the Liberals of "belligerence" and "McCarthyism" in bringing the motion forward. He accused a member of the Liberal caucus of having "too much wine for breakfast."

"No one on this side of the house rejects the notion of extracting and exploiting the bounty of natural resources here in British Columbia. Where we divide is, we want to add more value to that," Horgan said.

"Thomas Mulcair stood up and expressed a point of view, and in true Republican fashion, the B.C. Liberals saw an opportunity for what they call a 'wedge issue.'"

Liberal Pat Pimm, who represents the riding of Peace River North, said Mulcair's comments will be soundly rejected in northeast B.C., and he called the B.C. NDP, "Mr. Mulcair's puppet."