TORONTO — The first day of debate in the new session of Parliament began with a throwback claim that “foreign-funded activist groups” are hijacking Canada’s energy industry.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer responded to the throne speech on Friday, raising concerns about the Alberta and Saskatchewan economies. He warned his colleagues in the House of Commons not to underestimate feelings of alienation on the Prairies — which didn’t sit well with all members.
Scheer reaffirmed his party’s commitment to support Canada’s energy sector, saying one of his party’s core commitments is to “ban foreign-funded activist groups from participating in the pre-approvals process for large energy projects.”
The mention of “foreign-funded activist groups” having a role in landlocking the energy industry in Western Canada resurrects an argument made in a 2012 open letter by former Conservative natural resources minister Joe Oliver.
Amid debate about the fate of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, Oliver blamed foreign-funded “radical groups” for finding any means necessary to “achieve their radical ideological agenda” to block resource development.
“Their goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth,” he wrote at the time. “No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydro-electric dams.”
Scheer’s resuscitation of a similar line of argument irritated NDP MP Charlie Angus.
The Timmins—James Bay MP mocked the Conservative leader for seemingly blaming activists for job losses — and dragged Scheer for failing to propose “any coherent climate change plan” before and during the election.
“We get the conspiracy theory of foreign radicals who are trying to undermine our industry. Nobody buys that. We don’t have any coherent plan other than, ‘Grrr grrr grrr carbon tax.’”
Scheer has no credibility on the “single biggest crisis facing our planet,” Angus said in reference to climate change. The longtime NDP MP chastised the Conservative leader for using national unity issues as a way to leverage support the expansion of fossil fuel production.
The Opposition leader “tells the rest of Canada that they have to go along with his conspiracy theories ... or they will break up our country,” Angus said before making a veiled attack at the leadership and party unity challenges currently facing Scheer.
“I would tell that member to drop that kind of language because the ground is certainly melting beneath his feet very quickly at this point.”
Scheer brushed off Angus for delivering “idle rhetoric.” He called the NDP MP’s words “despicable,” which prompted an exchange with the Speaker about tone in the House.
Instead of focusing on reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions, the Conservative’s climate action plan proposes selling Canadian technologies to help reduce global levels in other countries such as China.
The Liberals, Bloc Québécois, NDP, and Greens have regularly criticized the Conservative plan for being weak. During the election, polls suggested that climate change was a major issue for voters.
In the throne speech, Gov. Gen. Julie Payette referenced that a “clear majority” of voters shared concerns about adapting to a world increasingly affected by climate change. “The science is clear, and it has been for decades,” she said.
Earlier this year, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced that his government would launch an inquiry to review the funding of anti-pipeline groups working to “undermine” the province’s energy sector.
The premier has identified Canadians advocacy group LeadNow, the Pembina Institute, and Tides Canada as organizations the province is interested in probing in its $2.5-million inquiry.