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Treasury board president criticizes Mulcair's energy views

President of the Treasury Board Tony Clement responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Thursday, May 10, 2012.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Federal Treasury Board President Tony Clement used a speech in the heart of Canada's oil and gas sector to launch an attack on NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and his dim view of Canada's resource industry.

Mr. Mulcair charges that booming energy exports, particularly from the oil sands, have created an artificially high dollar that has, in turn, hollowed out Canada's manufacturing sector — a phenomenon dubbed the "Dutch disease."

"This is a reckless and irresponsible ideology that is bad for Alberta, it's bad for my home province of Ontario and quite frankly, it's bad for Canada," Mr. Clement said Wednesday in a morning speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

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"He has proposed to cure the disease with much higher taxes, more burdensome regulations and endless red tape," he added.

"I can name many communities in Ontario and Quebec whose manufacturing has been saved by customers in the oil and gas and mining sectors."

Mr. Mulcair has insisted that statistics on manufacturing job losses are "irrefutable"' and that "everyone" agrees more than half of those losses are the direct result of the artificially high Canadian dollar created by booming energy exports, particularly from Alberta's oil sands.

Mr. Clement said the only logical conclusion from Mr. Mulcair's musings would be that the NDP would "undoubtedly cripple an important and growing sector in Canada's economy."

Mr. Mulcair's views have angered Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Saskatchewan's Brad Wall.

Ms. Redford has said she won't meet with Mr. Mulcair until he visits the Fort McMurray region to educate himself about the oil sands. Mr. Mulcair is to fly into Edmonton for meetings at the end of the month.

"I toured the oil sands myself about four years ago and it's very helpful," Mr. Clement told reporters. "I hope he does see things with a critical but open eye and I think he will be impressed."

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"Hope springs eternal but I can tell you if he comes back with the same rhetoric I don't think he will have given the oil sands a fair shake."

Mr. Clement said the Conservative government doesn't want the kind of rhetoric being spouted by the NDP to take hold and couldn't let it go unchallenged.

"We cannot let that debate go unmatched with our countervision. Especially damaging we feel is the idea that the way to get ahead in politics is to pitch region against region or class against class or economic sector against economic sector," said Mr. Clement.

"This may be a debate that goes on for another three and a half years until the next election," he added.

"It's important that we engage in it and not just automatically say that is so patently ridiculous we don't need to respond."

A recent study by the Institute for Research on Public Policy and the latest Statistics Canada report on manufacturing output cast doubt on just how seriously Canada is afflicted by the so-called Dutch disease.

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The IRPP study concludes that about one-quarter of Canadian manufacturing output is suffering due to the high dollar.

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