Layton would slash oilsands subsidies

NDP Leader Jack Layton is vowing to cut the fossil fuel subsidies for the oilsands and funnel that money instead into paying for clean power initiatives.
NDP Leader Jack Layton talks with a technician at a computer recycling operation during a campaign stop in Montreal on Thursday, March 31, 2011. The federal election will be held on May 2. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Jack Layton is vowing to cut the fossil fuel subsidies for Alberta's oilsands and funnel that money instead into paying for clean power initiatives.

Layton made the announcement after a campaign stop in Montreal, where he toured an environmentally friendly business park.

"Stephen Harper is handing billions to oil companies developing Canada's dirtiest energy sources, like the tarsands," Layton said. "As prime minister, I'll cancel his dirty fuels subsidy and put that money into clean energy solutions instead."

The NDP leader said the subsidies for the oilsands amount to a "$75 gift from every Canadian to big polluters."

The NDP estimates the oilsands industry receives roughly $2 billion worth of subsidies annually. And Layton said producers have seen their operating revenue jump to $211 billion from $117 billion since 2004.

The Conservatives criticized Layton's proposal on Thursday afternoon, saying the NDP leader had a chance to trim the federal subsidies to the oilsands projects.

"It's a bit much to hear the NDP criticize oil sands subsidies," a Conservative statement said. "Last week they had an opportunity to reduce those subsidies by supporting our budget, but instead chose to help defeat the government and trigger an unnecessary election."

The Conservatives said the federal budget, which was introduced last week but never voted on, had included the elimination of two tax subsidies for the oilsands.


NDP pitches financial incentives

Layton took his pitch against oilsands subsidies to Quebec, where polls have shown residents are very concerned about the environmental risks posed by the projects.

Layton used the Thursday speech to trumpet his party's ability to pass a Climate Change Accountability Act twice in a minority Parliament. He then criticized the Harper Conservatives for stalling the bill in the Senate.

"I will immediately eliminate Stephen Harper's subsidies to fossil fuel producers," Layton said. 

"We'll stop the flow to the tarsands, every single penny.

"And I'll redirect the savings into Canada's most promising clean energy."

Layton's clean energy program would offer financial incentives for companies to invest in solar, wind, tidal and geothermal projects. The NDP could apply to help fund energy efficiency projects that would cut Canadians' dependence on high carbon fuels.

As well,the NDP leader announced a plan to set up a training fund that would pay for jobs in new energy projects. He said the plan would help make Canada a world leader when it comes to the new energy economy.

The majority of the oilsands products are in northern Alberta.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers estimates there are 173 billion barrels of oilsands reserves in Canada. That amount would put Canada second behind Saudi Arabia for the amount of crude oil reserves.