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Trucks leave the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near Fort McMurray, Alta., on October 25, 2009. (MARK RALSTON)
Trucks leave the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near Fort McMurray, Alta., on October 25, 2009. (MARK RALSTON)

Quebec quietly promotes oil-sands opportunities Add to ...

Despite its very public criticism of Alberta's oil sands, the Quebec government is quietly urging the province's business people to cash in on the energy bonanza.

The provincial government is urging Quebec businesses to seize the opportunities offered by the oil sands during a trade mission to Edmonton next month.

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The invitation was made on an ad on the website for the provincial government's Department of Economic Development, Innovation and Exports.

The message is a far cry from the one delivered at the recent climate conference in Copenhagen, where the Charest government cast itself as the green hero to Alberta's environmental villain.

The government website explains that Suncor, Encana, and Imperial are expected to spend $200-billion on oil sands development projects over the coming years.

The site invites Quebec business people to join a four-day trade mission to Alberta starting March 22, and it promises $250 travel subsidies for each company that sends a representative.

"The launch of oil sands development projects [offers]business opportunities to seize," the ad says.

"This is a unique opportunity for businesses to position themselves to establish ties to the big decision-makers of Alberta's energy sector."

The opposition Parti Quebecois says the ad is only the latest example of Quebec's incoherent approach to climate change.

Montreal's Le Devoir newspaper, which first reported about the ad, quoted PQ environment critic Scott McKay saying that the Charest government has actually promoted car-friendly policies while painting itself as an environmental champion.

Quebec has repeatedly scolded the federal government for its failure to address climate change, but the province's own greenhouse gas emissions have actually increased more than five per cent since 1990.

Also, Quebec has annoyed the Alberta government by arguing that it should shoulder a greater share of the cost of fighting climate change because of its oil-sands pollution.

Alberta counters that while Quebec complains about the oil sands, it's continued pocketing the $8-billion federal equalization cheque each year supported to a large degree by oil revenues.

The Bloc Quebecois, the PQ's cousin in Ottawa, says it has no problem with the ad.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe said his party has never suggested oil sands development should be halted.

He said there's nothing wrong with companies participating in free-market opportunities related to oil.

What he wants is an end to federal tax breaks and climate-change policies that favour the oil sands.

"If they want to produce that kind of oil, the players have to pay the consequences of their own production," Mr. Duceppe said.

"What we're basically saying is that we should put an end to preferential treatment of oil companies."

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