Importance of oilsands not lost on NDP: Mason

Alberta has nothing to fear from a federal government led by Jack Layton, says provincial New Democratic Party Leader Brian Mason.

Despite the federal Conservatives' insistence that NDP environmental policies would ruin Alberta's energy industry, Mason said Friday the party's national leader "understands the importance of the oilsands."

Layton has vowed to eliminate federal subsidies to the energy sector and use the cash for renewable energy projects.

The party wants a moratorium on new oilsands projects until environmental issues are better managed, and a national cap and trade system for large industrial greenhouse gas emitters.

"There needs to be a systematic plan for the further development of the oilsands, which maximizes jobs and improves our environmental performance," Mason said, noting the Tories have also talked about implementing a cap and trade system with the U.S.

However, Mason acknowledged he has talked to Layton about the party's approach to the oilsands, including giving up the word "tarsands" -which he said has become a pejorative term used by opponents of the industry.

"There's an increasing sensitivity to some of those feelings here in Alberta," Mason said.

But Calgary Southeast Conservative incumbent Jason Kenney said Layton would "shutter the oilsands," and insisted unionized workers should vote against the NDP because the party is a threat to jobs in the oilpatch and associated industries.

"The NDP policy on the economy and energy would be a disaster for Canada, but it would be a particular disaster for Alberta."

The provincial NDP leader was speaking Friday at the Alberta Federation of Labour convention in Calgary. The mood was jubilant as speakers noted poll results show the NDP leading the Liberals, and close to the Tories.

Lethbridge electrician Richard Merrick said Alberta is still an uphill battle for the NDP, but he hasn't ever felt such momentum. "It's awesome," he said.

In a speech, Mason called on union members to actively support local NDP candidates. He argued Alberta needs to send at least some New Democrat MPs to Ottawa to represent the province's views, should the party form or be a part of the next government.

Calgary Herald, Sat Apr 30 2011
Byline: Kelly Crydermann

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