NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair speaks to the media after Question Period in Ottawa, May 17, 2012.
Credits: Andre Forget / QMI AGENCY
FORT McMURRAY, Alta. -- After spending weeks blaming Western Canada's energy sector for Ontario and Quebec's economic woes, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair will visit Alberta's oilsands region sometime this spring.
In an e-mail exchange with QMI Agency, NDP spokesman George Soule confirmed that Mulcair will visit the region.
When asked when the newly minted Opposition leader will visit the oilsands, or if he plans to make any announcements and meet with local politicians and industry leaders during the trip, Soule said he could not provide any details.
"Mr. Mulcair will be visiting Alberta, including the Oil Sands sometime this spring," Soule wrote. "We don't have any details at this time."
Since taking over the NDP leadership, Mulcair has blamed Western Canada's booming oil and gas sector for inflating the loonie. Historically, Eastern Canada thrived on a weaker dollar, however, the soaring loonie has chased away investment and driven up the cost of production in the region's once vibrant automotive and manufacturing industry.
Fort McMurray-Conklin MLA Don Scott said he was pleased that Mulcair was planning to visit the region and hopes it "will serve as an educational experience."
"Comments that are rooted in facts and first-hand experience need to be the basis of legitimate discussion," Scott said. "What I don't like seeing, and I've seen this in the past, is people who criticize the oilsands and criticize our region without educating themselves what it's really like."
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Mike Allen agreed and hopes to discuss Alberta's oilsands personally with Mulcair.
"This is our home, it's the economic engine of the country, I think he should have his facts straight before he comments on it," he said. "I will be pleased to meet with Mr. Mulcair and help facilitate a tour of our region..."
The e-mail exchange with Soule took place Thursday, the same day Mulcair was attacked by the Tory government during question period for refusing to back down from his comments.
"I wonder if the leader of the Opposition will apologize to Western Canadians for saying the strength of the western economy is a disease on the rest of Canada," said Heritage Minister James Moore, who represents a riding in British Columbia.
"He should be ashamed of himself for attacking the West, dividing our country and not even having visited the places he is attacking," he said. "It is unconscionable for someone who wants to be the prime minister of the country to be so utterly irresponsible."
Mulcair, who originally wanted to address the F-35 jet fiasco, fought back against Moore's charge, asserting that the root cause of the high dollar is the federal government's refusal to force energy companies to take environmental responsibility for their actions.
"We are allowing these companies to use the air, the soil and the water as an unlimited free dumping ground," he said, accusing the government of modelling its energy policies after Nigeria, rather than the more progressive Norway. "Their priority is the unbridled development of the oilsands. We stand for sustainable development in this country."
- With files from QMI Agency