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New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair speaks during Question Period in Ottawa on Nov. 27, 2013.CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair spelled out Wednesday his party's energy policy, promising to put environmental protection at the forefront of a new national strategy and to encourage the processing of resources at home rather than the export of raw materials.

In a luncheon speech in Ottawa, the opposition leader contrasted his party with both the Stephen Harper's Conservatives and Justin Trudeau's Liberals, both of whom have supported the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Mr. Mulcair opposes TransCanada Corp.'s proposed project to ship oil sands bitumen to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, saying the heavy crude should be upgraded and refined in Canada.

The New Democratic Party leader also renewed his pledge to impose a cap-and-trade system that would limit industrial greenhouse emissions, but allow companies to trade for credits to enable the most efficient, economy-wide reductions. He said the revenue raised from the plan would be used to finance the development of clean energy technology. The Conservatives have frequently slammed the NDP's cap-and-trade plan as a "tax on everything."

Mr. Mulcair said the Conservatives have presented Canadians with a "false choice" between economic growth and environmental protection.

Seeking to position his party as a government in waiting, he laid out a sweeping policy that would reverse the Harper government's recent regulatory changes; partner with provinces and aboriginal communities on resource development, and aggressively pursue opportunities in the clean-tech sector, including the reinstatement of the popular EcoEnergy retrofit that underwrote energy efficiency investments by homeowners and businesses.

The plan would "leverage[s] our natural resource wealth to invest in modern, clean energy technology that will keep Canada on the cutting edge of energy development and ensure affordable energy rates into the future," he said.

The NDP Leader said the Conservatives have dismantled the country's environmental protection in the pursuit of resource development, an approach that will have costly, long-term consequences at home and undermines industry's effort to develop new markets abroad.

"Business leaders know that the future of Canada's natural resource sector will be based on our access to global markets," he said. "And that access, in turn, will be based on the perception of how we develop those resources."

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver laid out the Conservatives' case in a speech in Vancouver early Wednesday, insisting the government has not sacrificed environmental protection but has merely streamlined the regulatory process.

"Our government's plan for responsible resources development is an inclusive plan for securing Canada's prosperity for future generations," Mr. Oliver said. "Through meaningful action that enhances safety of the environment, all Canadians will benefit from the opportunity of reaching new markets for our vast energy resources."

He noted the government has received recommendations from an expert panel on how to improve the safety of supertanker traffic in Canadian waters, and will act on those recommendations. The government has also promised greater inspections for pipelines, rail and tankers while increasing liability limits to ensure companies have the capacity to clean up in the vent of spills.