It was a war of words Tuesday in Fort McMurray between Brian Jean and the person he's fighting to replace — Premier Rachel Notley.

Jean, MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin and a candidate for the leadership of the new United Conservative Party, was on home turf at the Oilsands Trade Show and Conference. Notley was visiting Fort McMurray.

The two politicians weren't in the same room but they went head to head.

The dust-up started with Jean's comments at a Q&A session at the oilsands convention Tuesday morning.

He told his audience of about 25 people that the NDP government's higher taxes and regulations were a sign Notley wanted to shut down the oilsands.

Pic 3 Oilsands conference

Brian Jean told his audience of about 25 listeners the NDP’s governments higher taxes and regulations were a sign Notley wanted to close the oilsands. (David Thurton/ CBC)

Jean noted that in January, the government introduced a carbon tax on gasoline, diesel, natural gas and other fuels.

And he said that because the federal and British Columbia NDP have opposed the oilsands and the construction of new pipelines, the Alberta NDP adopts those values.

"The truth is all of these things together say one thing, I believe," Jean said. "And that is Rachel Notley and the NDP want to close down the oilsands.

"You might say, 'They are focused on the environment.' No. They are focused on shutting down the oilsands."

'Ridiculous,' Notley responds

Notley responded at a news conference called to provide an update on wildfire evacuations in southern Alberta.

"It's a ridiculous statement," Notley said. "The fact of the matter is our government understands how important the oilsands are to the people of Fort McMurray and the people of Alberta and of Canada."

Notley called on Jean to base his statements on facts.

Pic 2 Rachel Notley

Premier Rachel Notley said Jean's comments were 'ridiculous.' (David Thurton/CBC)

She pointed to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion project and Enbridge Line 3 replacement program, both of which were approved by the federal government last year.

Notley and her government supported both approvals as beneficial for Alberta and the country as a whole.

The Trans Mountain pipeline involves twinning an 1,150-kilometre pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C.

The Line 3 project is to replace a 1,659-kilometre project that carries Fort McMurray oilsands bitumen from a terminal near Hardisty, Alta. across the U.S. border through northern Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.

Notley said that the NDP has worked with industry to implement its carbon tax through its climate leadership plan.

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