* Mulcair calls for more refining rather than pipelines
* Says Harper government not enforcing legislation
* Alberta premier snubs NDP leader
By Jeffrey Jones
CALGARY, Alberta, May 31 Canada should refine
more crude from its vast oil sands to create jobs and boost
economic benefits rather than build pipelines to ship the raw
material overseas, the leader of federal opposition party said
after his first visit to the massive Alberta production
facilities on Th urs day.
New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair, who toured
Suncor Energy Inc's sprawling oil sands operation, also
said he did not advocate imposing new environmental legislation
on the energy sector, only demanding the federal government
enforce laws that are already on the books.
Mulcair, who hails from Quebec, has come under fire in
Alberta for saying the booming oil sands industry is partly
responsible for driving up Canadian dollar's value, which in
turn has led to a struggling manufacturing sector as goods for
exports became too expensive.
Following his high-profile trip to the oil sands hub of Fort
McMurray, Alberta, he insisted his left-wing NDP supports
measured, long-term economic growth and was not anti-tar sands.
"That means building a diversified economy that includes
value-added jobs and a thriving export industry. It means
upgrading and refining our own natural resources right there in
Canada and particularly in Alberta, instead of building
pipelines to ship raw bitumen, for example, overseas," Mulcair
said in Edmonton.
"It means making polluters pay for the pollution they create
rather than leaving that cleanup to future generations.
Governments have an obligation of result."
Following a surprise second-place showing in last year's
federal election, Mulcair and his party have made big strides in
opinion polls and in some have surpassed Prime Minister Stephen
Harper's Conservatives, although Canadians do not head to the
polls again until October 2015.
Alberta Progressive Conservative Premier Alison Redford was
angered by Mulcair's remarks about the oil sands' national
economic impact, and attended an economic forum in the United
States on Thursday rather than meet with him. Instead, Mulcair
had meetings with Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk and Fort
McMurray Mayor Melissa Blake.
Interestingly, calls to refine more bitumen from the oil
sands within Alberta have come from politicians in the province
for years, the last being Redford's predecessor, Ed Stelmach.
However, some analysts warn a big increase in upgrading and
refining capacity in Alberta could result in prices for the
products slumping after numerous U.S. refineries have added
equipment to process heavy Canadian bitumen. Redford has said
the market should decide.
Meanwhile, she and the Harper government have promoted
pipelines to Texas and Canada's Pacific Coast to diversify
markets for Canadian crude, projects that face staunch
opposition from environmental groups.
Both governments have said the industry is developing the
resource, which is the world's third-largest crude deposit,
responsibly under their watchful eye. They have set up new
monitoring programs after formal scientific reviews found
studies of ecological impact lacking.
Mulcair said the Harper government is to blame for much of
the environmental damage, by not enforcing acts pertaining to
migratory birds, navigable waters and species at risk.
"It affects animal life, it affects ecosystems and
ultimately it affects human life as well, so these are things
that we take seriously as obligations of the federal government,
and we don't think that Stephen Harper's Conservatives in
particular have been living up to those obligations," he said.