Harper fires back following NDP candidate’s comment on oilsands

WATCH ABOVE: Harper attacks NDP “star” candidate Linda McQuaig for saying a lot of oilsands oil would have to stay in the ground to achieve climate change goals.

OTTAWA — Federal Conservative Leader Stephen Harper fired back at the NDP Sunday following remarks made last week by NDP candidate Linda McQuaig, who told a CBC panel discussion that for Canada to meet its climate change targets, “a lot of the oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground.”

The comments contrasted with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, who has been open to oilsands development provided there is rigorous environmental protection and legislation to force oil companies to pay for pollution they create, including increased greenhouse gas emissions. Mulcair does, however, support a west-to-east pipeline for moving oilsands crude to market.

“That is the NDP’s not-so-hidden agenda on development,” Harper said, calling McQuaig a “star” candidate.

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“The NDP is consistently against the development of our resources and our economy. That’s why they have been a disaster wherever they’ve been in government and why they would wreck this economy if they ever got in, and why they must never get into power in this country.”

WATCH: Mulcair responds to attacks on NDP oilsands policy.

READ MORE: Harper takes on Ontario, Alberta premiers in first week of election campaign

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McQuaig, a well-known author and the NDP candidate for the riding of Toronto Centre, also stirred up a political hornet’s nest in Alberta with her comment on the oilsands.

Calgary Conservative Michelle Rempel, who was on the same panel, challenged McQuaig and said constituents were bringing it up while she was campaigning on Saturday.

“It came up at the doors three times without me even saying anything about it: ‘I saw you on TV last night. Thank you for standing up for the energy industry, what that woman said is very concerning,’ so people are very concerned and rightly so about economic stability,” Rempel said in an interview.

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The Liberals chimed in with their own news release, accusing the New Democrats of saying different things to different people on key issues.

WATCH ABOVE: Trudeau derides Harper and Mulcair on oilsands environmental policy.

The New Democrats later released a statement from their natural resources critic saying McQuaig was not referring to party policy, but to an international report that said oilsands production might have to be curtailed to meet climate change targets.

“The NDP believes that developing our natural resources and lowering our green house gas emissions can go hand in hand,” said Malcolm Allen in an emailed statement.

Alberta’s Opposition Leader Brian Jean tried to make it a provincial issue, saying on Saturday that McQuaig’s comments were “deeply concerning.” He called on New Democrat Premier Rachel Notley to stand up to her federal cousins.

A spokeswoman for Notley said the provincial NDP government remains committed to the sustainability of the energy sector.

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READ MORE: Alberta Premier Notley aims for diplomatic approach to backing NDP in federal vote

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne continued to be a visible presence in the federal election campaign, reaching back to the 1800s to find ammunition to criticize Stephen Harper’s track record on relations with the provinces.

She told a federal Liberal campaign event in Toronto on Saturday that if Stephen Harper had been the prime minister at the time instead of Sir John A. Macdonald, the transcontinental railway might never have become reality because he would have told the provinces it was up to them to build it.

The Conservatives countered by again blasting Wynne’s proposal for a provincial pension plan, calling it a tax.

READ MORE: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne throws more jabs at Harper

Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe was the only leader doing any political campaigning, promising to serve his full term if elected no matter how his party fares.

After meeting party organizers and candidates in Montreal’s east end Saturday morning, the Bloc leader refused to say how many seats he hopes to win in the Oct. 19 election.

Smiling broadly, Duceppe would only say he wanted “the most and the best.”

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He also promised to “respect his mandate,” and serve a full four-year term if he is elected, regardless of his party’s results.

“When you seek a mandate, you have to respect that mandate, but it’s not a scenario I expect,” Duceppe told reporters.

The Bloc Quebecois has nominated 73 candidates, and has promised to run in all of Quebec’s 78 ridings. The remaining candidates will be declared in the upcoming weeks after nominations are finalized.

The three major party leaders had no public political events. Elizabeth May of the Green Party was to attend a music festival in Red Rock, Ont.

With files from Jordan Press, The Canadian Press.

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