01/15/2014 02:30 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST

Cenvous, TransCanada CEOs: You Should Be Outraged By Keystone Opposition

TORONTO — The chief executives of two of Canada's biggest energy companies say Canadians should be outraged by criticism of the oilsands.

Cenovus Energy president and chief executive Brian Ferguson says environmental groups and Hollywood celebrities have been making baseless accusations that make front-page news even though they aren't true.

He says the oil industry in Canada is a major source of jobs and that the oilsands are being developed responsibly.

TransCanada president and CEO Russ Girling — whose company is still awaiting U.S. government approval to build the US$5.4-billion northern portion of its Keystone XL pipeline more than five years after first applying for a permit — says that many of the claims critics make are based in "fantasy and not reality.''

Their comments come after opponents of the oilsands got a celebrity boost from Canadian rock icon Neil Young this past weekend.

Young held a news conference in which he compared a Fort McMurray industrial site he'd visited to the atomic-bomb devastation of Hiroshima, Japan.

Young said he was "embarrassed'' by a Canadian government that was "trading integrity for money'' and accused politicians of breaking treaties with the First Nation and plundering natural resources.

Young reaffirmed his criticism Monday after a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper shot back that Canada's natural resources sector was a fundamental part the economy.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Wednesday he wasn't impressed by Young's comments.

"His comparison of Fort McMurray to Hiroshima is as inaccurate as it is insulting to victims and I think really undercuts his credibility,'' Oliver, who is in India for a trade mission, said in a conference call from Mumbai.

"I just think it's regrettable that he's using his fame to advance policies that actually will hurt the very people he claims he wants to help.''

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