The three candidates in the running for the Progressive Conservative leadership gave their opinion in Calgary on Saturday about Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s visit to the oilsands in Fort McMurray.

Tutu, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, has taken a strong stance on climate change and is against projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline.

“The fact that this filth is being created now, when the link between carbon emissions and global warming is so obvious, reflects negligence and greed,” Tutu told more than 200 rapt attendees at a conference on oilsands development and treaty rights on Saturday.

'I think you need to look at the context of the latest celebrity to come through and say, 'has that person done their homework?'' - Ric Mciver, Calgary MLA

Former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice, Calgary MLA Ric McIver and Edmonton MLA Thomas Lukaszuk all spoke about Tutu’s comments.

McIver was perhaps the most critical of the three candidates, saying that when some celebrities come to visit the oilsands, they intend to “damage our major industry.”

“I think you need to look at the context of the latest celebrity to come through and say, ‘Has that person done their homework?’” McIver said.

“We are pretty transparent. People can come see the oilsands and what they are doing, but the fact is our environmental regulations are as strict here as they are anywhere on earth.”

Prentice did not speak directly about Tutu’s comments, but stressed that education about the oilsands is crucial.

Desmond Tutu

Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu arrived at the Fort McMurray airport on Thursday afternoon. (CBC)

“We have an exceptional environmental performance in terms of the Canadian energy industry, including the oilsands,” he said.

“The oilsands is probably Canada’s greatest scientific achievement. We need to work hard to make people understand that and we need to be continually improving it.”

Lukaszuk joined Prentice in saying education is important.

“We need to be cognizant that there are those of that opinion,” he said.

“I think that we need to work harder to make sure they’re provided with factual information so that their opinion is an educated one.”

Voting for the Conservative leadership is set for Sept. 6. There will be a second ballot on Sept. 20 if necessary.

With files from the Canadian Press.