Mulcair's oilsands position 'hypocritical'

Preston Manning is calling out "hypocritical" federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair for "preaching" to Alberta while turning a blind eye to the environmental cost of producing energy in Quebec.

Preston Manning is calling out "hypocritical" federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair for "preaching" to Alberta while turning a blind eye to the environmental cost of producing energy in Quebec.

In an interview that aired Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, the former Reform Party leader told host Evan Solomon he agrees with the principle of internalizing environmental costs, but "if you are going to apply that to one energy source, you ought to apply it to all ... or you'll misallocate capital and you'll hurt the environment."

"And that's the part Mr. Mulcair studiously avoids," Manning said.

Manning said he recognizes that when you produce energy there are going to be environmental effects. "You identify those environmental effects — and the cost of avoiding them or mitigating them — and then you try some way of integrating that into the cost of the product," he said.

"I've argued that for years," the president and CEO of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy said. "And whether it's through cap-and-trade or carbon levies or some yet to be invented process, I agree with that [principle]."

The problem with Mulcair's position, Manning said, is that the former Quebec minister of sustainable development and the environment has never been heard "crusading to internalize the impact of Quebec's hydro operation."

Manning told Solomon hydro companies have flooded forest areas "the size of lake Ontario," so "where is the reservoir tax that's the hydro equivalent of the carbon levy?" Manning asked.

East-West divisions

Mulcair, who visited Alberta's oil sands for the first time last week, has taken heat from the federal government and western premiers alike for what they say are comments that have the effect of pitting one part of the country against the other.

According to the federal NDP leader, Canada is suffering from the so-called "Dutch Disease" — the Canadian dollar being held "artificially high" by the oilsands causing the economy harm in other parts of the country. And part of Mulcair's prescription for what is ailing Canada's economy includes "making polluters pay."

Manning told Solomon he doesn't disagree with that but said his point is "if you are going to preach that to the petroleum industry, and you've had the responsibility for the biggest energy company in Quebec in hydro, how come you did not implement that concept there?

"It applies to Alberta but doesn't apply to Quebec?  It applies to petroleum but doesn't apply to hydro?" Manning asked.

"One of the worst things that can happen to political leadership is to be seen to be taken hypocritical positions, preaching to people about one thing and not implementing it or practising it yourself," he said.

Following his visit of the oilsands, Mulcair said his real beef was with the federal government.

"Increasingly, we find that if companies in certain sectors don't obey environmental laws the government doesn't demand that they change their behaviour," he said. "Instead, the government just changes the law."

Mulcair added it wasn't the NDP that was sowing divisions between East and West. "Those are Stephen Harper's battle lines, not mine" Mulcair said on his last day of a three-day tour of the Prairies.

And speaking from a party convention in Montreal, interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae blamed both Harper and Mulcair for  "the same divisive politics, the same politics of pitting East against West."