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Anger over NDP candidate's oilsands comments

Controversial oilsands development comments have a star NDP candidate facing gushing wells of criticism from her federal and provincial counterparts.

Appearing as a panellist on CBC's Power & Politics broadcast Friday, NDP Toronto-Centre candidate Linda McQuaig suggested Canada should dial back Alberta's oilsands development to address environmental concerns.

"A lot of people recognize that a lot of the oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground if we're going to meet our climate change targets," she said on the program.

She said this moratorium should remain in place until a system of climate change accountability is in place, along with a review process to examines pipeline environmental impact.

"The environment review process has been absolutely gutted under the Conservative government," she said.

"We can't properly assess whether or not pipeline projects are not just economically viable, but environmentally viable."

Dismissing her fellow panellist's comments, Conservative candidate for Calgary-Nose Hill Michelle Rempel said McQuaig's comments don't reflect the interests of Alberta's energy workers.

"Instead of standing up for the energy sector or Canada's economy, you're hearing 'I want to tax this, I want this oil to be left in the ground,' " she said.

Rather than the economic and environmental balance purportedly supported by her party. Rempel said the NDP's oilsands policy is more concerned with ideology than reality -- attributing it to the "ideological aversion to the development of one of Canada's most prosperous resources by the left."

Response to McQuaig's comments have been swift.

In a statement issued Saturday, Alberta opposition leader Brian Jean called on Alberta's NDP premier to repudiate what he called McQuaig's "anti-Alberta posturing."

"It is deeply concerning to see one of (the federal NDP's) star candidates and top spokespersons on national television calling for a moratorium on oilsands development," the Wildrose party leader said. "As the MLA from Fort McMurray, I know that Alberta's oilsands have been a leading driver of Alberta and Canada's economy and a source of hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs."

He urged Notley to look beyond her public endorsement of federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and distance herself from McQuaig's comments.

Echoing Jean's comments, Liberal Fort McMurray-Cold Lake candidate Kyle Harrietha joined in the denouncement of McQuaig, accusing Mulcair of "double-speak" when speaking of Alberta's energy sector on the campaign trail, claiming his audaunce dictates his public stance on the issue.

Alberta's Office of the Premier spokeswoman Cheryl Oates said the provincial government's position on the issue remains unchanged, saying they've "always been committed to the sustainability of the energy industry, which provides good, mortgage-paying jobs."

Inquiries to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers were not returned by press time.

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