Edmonton

Alberta NDP distances itself from Tom Mulcair's 'oil in the ground' remark

Alberta delegates at the national NDP convention in Edmonton are distancing themselves from remarks made by federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair about keeping oil in the ground to help fight climate change.

Province's deputy premier Sarah Hoffman calls federal leader's comments 'unacceptable'

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is facing a leadership review at his party's convention in Edmonton this weekend. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Alberta delegates at the national NDP convention in Edmonton are distancing themselves from remarks made by federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair about keeping oil in the ground to help fight climate change.

In an interview with the CBC's Peter Mansbridge that aired Wednesday, Mulcair said if party members passed a policy to keep oil and coal in the ground, and if he remained leader, he would do everything he could to make it a reality.

Mulcair's statement created an awkward situation for Alberta's NDP government. Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman rebuked Mulcair in the Alberta Legislature Thursday, saying she found his comments unacceptable. 

"I absolutely do not agree with what Tom Mulcair said about keeping oil in the ground yesterday," Hoffman said.

Edmonton delegate Janis Irwin said she was disappointed with Tom Mulcair's remarks. (CBC )

"Those remarks are unacceptable, and I will certainly be there [federal NDP convention] to convey that message to membership and to make sure that they know how important it is that we get our product to market."

On Friday, Mulcair insisted to The Canadian Press he would never suggest that oil should stay in the ground.

Mulcair referred to a policy document called the Leap Manifesto — which will be debated at the NDP convention — and said he doesn't think it advocates for the end of oilsands extraction. The document calls for phasing out Canada's dependence on fossil fuels.

Many Alberta delegates to the convention plan to vote against the manifesto when it comes up on Saturday, according to Edmonton delegate Janis Irwin.

Irwin, the unsuccessful NDP candidate in Edmonton-Griesbach in the last federal election, called Mulcair's remarks disappointing.

"We feel that we need to get our oil to market," Irwin said. "I agree with Albertans. My own dad works in oil and gas and has for 40 years. We need to prioritize the economy, but also consider the environment, and we can do both.

"We need to be vocal and we need to stand up, for not just Albertans, but for Canadians."

Some Alberta NDP members of the legislature at the convention were cautious about criticizing Mulcair. They referred to Hoffman's remarks in the legislature, or cited their government's position that Canadians need to get behind a new pipeline to the coast. 

"Everything Sarah Hoffman said, I'm on board with," said Brian Malkinson, MLA for Calgary-Currie.

"I think our premier has made it very clear that we support pipeline expansion across the nation, so we will continue to advocate for that, as we would for all of our other platforms," said Edmonton-Manning MLA Heather Sweet.

Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan dismissed the controversy over Mulcair's remarks as 'much ado over nothing.' (CBC )

The NDP's only Alberta MP, Linda Duncan from Edmonton-Strathcona, said she feels that the controversy over Mulcair's remarks are "much ado about nothing."

"He is simply saying that because we are a party based on what the membership decides," she said.

Mulcair faces a leadership review on Sunday, the last day of the convention.

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