Canada’s federal candidates weigh in on oil during economy-driven debate

Intro

The role of oil in Canada’s economy took centre stage during the federal election debate Thursday evening. Hosted by national newspaper the Globe and Mail, current Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau talked tough about the volatile commodity. While Harper did admit that the current economy is no walk in the park, the Conservative leader danced around concerns about oil-driven investments, sticking to recycled rhetoric centred around balanced budgets and low taxes. The prime minister also noted that he has no intention of introducing carbon taxes. Meanwhile, Trudeau favoured transit and infrastructure development across Canada as an economic driver. The Liberal leader also called out the Harper administration for “(making) the oilsands an international pariah,” adding that “Mr. Harper continues to pretend that there is a choice between environment and economy.” Mulcair also came after the prime minister, accusing him of brewing a perfect storm that lead to Canada’s current recession, arguing that “Mr. Harper put all of his eggs into one basket (the oil sector) and then he dropped the basket.” According to the NDP leader, his economic vision for Canada would comprise of a “dynamic and innovative energy sector” and would also include a cap-and-trade system to tackle greenhouse gas emissions. With the elections coming up in just one month, candidates will be challenged by the public to keep the climate at the forefront of the national debate, or risk following in Australia’s footsteps and lose their base.

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Key Points

  • Dirty energy is not the basis of Canada’s economic growth. With job growth in Canada’s green energy sector recently surpassing employment in the oil sands, the myth that dirty energy serves as the basis of Canada’s economy and quality of life is busted. According to Statistics Canada, tar sands development contributes just over 2 per cent toward Canada’s gross domestic product, less than 2 per cent of employment, and 15 per cent of net trade flow. Meanwhile, the costs associated with pursuing a dirty energy strategy are high.
  • Experts agree that a healthy planet can promote economic growth. According to a report published by the NewClimate Economy, economies will grow while carbon emissions shrink — as long as international commitment to clean development is strong. If Canada changes its reputation as a climate laggard and joins the global energy transition, the next prime minister can lead the country towards economic prosperity.
  • Economic policy that fails to care for the climate could impact votes. In Australia this week, regressive climate policy pushed the country’s federal party to replace their current prime minister with a more moderate candidate. Climate change and the environment are top issues for Canadians, and federal election contenders who see value in listening to their voter needs face better odds at leading the country.

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Quotes

  • “Here in Alberta we had a round of layoffs because of low oil prices and now we’re having a round of layoffs because of higher taxes.” – Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada and leader of Conservative Party 
  • “I’ve never said things are great. What I’ve said is that we’re living in a very unstable global economic environment. In the last 10 years where would you have rather been in all of this global economic instability than Canada?” – Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada and leader of Conservative Party 
  • “Mr. Harper put all his eggs into one basket then he dropped the basket.” – Thomas Mulcair, leader of the New Democratic Party, Canada’s official opposition 
  • “Under Stephen Harper’s leadership, we have not built one pipeline to tidewater. Mr. Harper sees the economy and the environment as polar opposites.” – Thomas Mulcair, leader of the New Democratic Party, Canada’s official opposition 
  • “The fact is Mr. Harper continues to pretend that there is a choice between environment and economy.” – Justin Trudeau, leader of Canada’s Liberal Party 
  • “That has been his failure. He has made the oilsands an international pariah. With friends like Mr. Harper, Alberta doesn’t need enemies.” – Justin Trudeau, leader of Canada’s Liberal Party

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