Sask. premier has 'concerns' with Mulcair's Dutch Disease

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall tells CBC Radio's The House while NDP leader Tom Mulcair's "tone has changed," he still has "real concerns" with Mulcair's Dutch Disease theory. Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says the high dollar is "creating more challenges" for Ontario's manufacturing sector.

Ontario's premier says the high dollar creates 'more challenges' for the manufacturing sector

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty got into political hot water with Canada's western premiers last February over comments he made about the oilsands. At the time, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said McGuinty's comments were divisive and did not help the relationship between east and west. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe.)

NDP leader Tom Mulcair's tone may have changed following his first trip to Alberta's oilsands but his diagnosis for what is ailing Canada's economy remains the same, says Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

In an interview airing on CBC Radio's The House on Saturday, Wall tells host Evan Solomon the NDP leader is still "pretty blunt about not having changed his position that we have 'Dutch Disease'."

That's because after touring Alberta's oil sands on Thursday, Mulcair repeated comments he first made during the May 5 episode of The House, when he told Solomon the Canadian dollar was being held "artifically high" by the oilsands causing the economy harm in other parts of the country such as the manufacturing sector in the East.

Wall told Solomon he still has "real concerns" about Mulcair's "Dutch Disease" thesis but will wait to see what policy the federal Opposition leader puts forward.

Mulcair's controversial comments have sparked a national debate while unleashing a flurry of criticism with Western Premiers leading the charge.

Wall called Mulcair's comments "divisive" while the Premiers of British Columbia and Alberta fired back describing the NDP leader's comments as "goofy" and pits one part of the country against another..

Mulcair dismissed their criticism by calling the Premiers "messengers" for Stephen Harper.

However, on Thursday, Mulcair said his beef was with the federal government and not the Premiers.

"Leaders at the provincial level are already seized with this issue... Sadly, that isn't the case with this federal government under Stephen Harper," said Mulcair.

'Making polluters pay'

The NDP leader reserved his strongest criticism for the federal government and its environmental policies which New Democrats see reflected in Bill C-38, the omnibus budget implementation bill.

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

Mulcair explained that his presciption for the so-called "Dutch Disease" includes "making polluters pay."

Wall told Solomon if Mulcair is alluding to a cap-and-trade system, that's where the two "part company in a dramatic way. And I think the West will as well," said the Saskatchewan leader.

"From our perspective, [cap-and-trade] is moving emissions around. It's a tax. And it's a transfer potentially out of a region of the economy where jobs are being created," said Wall.

The Saskatchewan Premier explained that his government will put a price on carbon while keeping the proceeds in the province.

"The emitters pay into a tech fund that they can access to invest into the technology," he explained.

Wall told Solomon, "hopefully now we have moved to the point where it is a robust debate and each side will make it's case and one side won't be a messenger for any other."

Ontario's manufacturing sector

In February, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty also got into hot water with the Western Premiers after he said that a strong oilsands industry means a high Canadian dollar, which hurts Ontario's manufacturing and export sectors.

"The only reason the dollar is high, it's a petro dollar, driven by the global demand for oil and gas to be sourced in Western Canada," McGuinty  said at the time. "If I had my preferences as to whether we have a rapidly growing oil and gas sector in the West or a lower dollar benefiting Ontario, I stand with the lower dollar."

'The high dollar creates more of a challenge for us here in Ontario since we have a large manufacturing centre.'—Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty

In an interview also airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Solomon asked the Ontario Premier if the closure of the GM plant in Oshawa was an example of the so-called "Dutch Disease."

McGuinty said, "There's been some talk lately about the advent of the 'Dutch Disease' in Canada particularly insofar as it is manifested in Ontario, I'm not buying into that."

While the Premier said he did not subscribe to the so-called 'Dutch Disease' theory, McGuinty reiterated the same sentiments that got him into hot water with Wall and other Western Premiers last February. 

"We need to ensure that every part [of the country] is growing strength and creating jobs... but we also need to recognize that we have different challenges and different opportunities each in our own provinces. The high dollar creates more of a challenge for us here in Ontario since we have a large manufacturing centre," McGuinty said.

When Solomon asked McGuinty if he agreed with the theory that a boom in Alberta was lifting the dollar and in turn, harming Ontario's manufacturing sector, the Ontario Premier said he agreed.

"It does. It creates more challenges for us when it comes to our manufacturing."

"That's why we have done difficult things like adopting the HST. It's made the affordability of productivity enhacing equipment and technology better for our businesses," explained McGuinty.

The Ontario Premier went on to tell Solomon he would like to see the federal government provide financial support to help Ontario move into wind and solar power.

"Just as [Ottawa] is investing over $1 billion per year in carbon-capture storage in Western Canada, let's invest in Central Canada, but more specifically in Ontario, in energy storage," said McGuinty.