Linda McQuaig, a star New Democratic Party candidate, says Alberta's oilsands may need to remain undeveloped in order for Canada to meet its climate change targets.
The NDP candidate for Toronto Centre told CBC News Network's Power & Politics there should not be a rush to extract from the oilsands without proper environmental assessments.
"A lot of the oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground if we're going to meet our climate change targets," McQuaig said.
"We'll know that better once we properly put in place a climate change accountability system of some kind," she told host Rosemary Barton. "And… once we have a proper review process for our environmental projects like pipelines."
McQuaig is a journalist and author whose books include Shooting the Hippo, which attacked the Liberal government's slashing of social programs to reduce the deficit, and It's the Crude, Dude, which examined the connection between America's dependence on foreign oil and its invasion of Iraq.
Calgary Conservative candidate Michelle Rempel, appearing on the panel with McQuaig, quickly responded.
"For the hundreds of thousands of people whose jobs are dependent on Canada's energy sector, listen to what you just heard. Instead of standing up for the energy sector or Canada's economy, you're hearing 'I want to tax this, I want this oil to be left in the ground.'"
McQuaig later qualified her comments. "I didn't say I want this oil left in the ground. I said we have to have environmental standards." McQuaig suggested that former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed has himself called for a moratorium on the oilsands.
In fact, in 2011 Lougheed voiced his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline on economic grounds.
"I would prefer … we process the bitumen from the oilsands in Alberta and that would create a lot of jobs and job activity," he told Anna Maria Tremonti of CBC Radio's The Current .
"That would be a better thing to do than merely send the raw bitumen down the pipeline and they refine it in Texas that means thousands of new jobs in Texas."
A study published in the scientific journal Nature in January claimed Canada's oilpatch would have to be left mostly unexploited if the world is to avoid a rise in average temperature of two degrees or more.
During the federal leaders' debate Thursday, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair did not spell out party policy on support for pipelines. Instead, he argued he would make sure projects undergo a rigorous review before approval.
Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper, along with other G7 leaders, has committed to a zero carbon economy by 2100.