TORONTO — The oilsands were called a “Canadian jewel” Monday by a trio of Alberta cabinet ministers dispatched to Toronto to scrub clean the “dirty oil” image of oilsands development.
“My role on this mission is to bring some balance into this discussion,” said Rob Renner, the province’s environment minister.
“I think that there is an impression left out there that this is the Wild West, unregulated.
“Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The Alberta team, rounded out by Energy Minister Ron Liepert and Intergovernmental Relations Minister Iris Evans, will spend several days in Central Canada spreading what it calls “Alberta’s story.”
The Canadian Energy Research Institute, they noted, estimates the oilsands will create $307 billion in tax revenue across Canada over the next 25 years. Some 23 per cent of oilsands-related employment is generated outside the province, the ministers added.
Ontario businesses can benefit from the responsible management of the oilsands, they said.
Opponents argue that “dirty oil” from oilsands projects negatively impacts the environment and economy.
Gillian McEachern of Environmental Defence said oil exports have driven up the value of the Canadian dollar, hurting rather than helping Ontario manufacturers.
“Our Canadian dollar has become linked to the price of oil as our exports have gone up — The rising Canadian dollar has hurt manufacturing jobs in Ontario,” said McEachern.
McEachern added that increased development means more toxic chemicals will appear in Alberta’s waters.
Last week, a group of scientists and aboriginals asked Ottawa to step in to see if pollution from the oilsands is making fish sick.
“Fisherman from Fort Chipewyan and the community downstream of the tar sands presented several severely deformed fish,” said McEachern.
“These are the fish that they are hauling up in their nets.”
While the ministers spoke broadly about environmental initiatives, Evans did acknowledge concerns surrounding the dollar and manufacturing jobs.
“But we’re taking the broad view that the oilsands are a resource that will be with us for 200 years, maybe beyond that, and our responsibility is to keep moving the agenda forward,” she said.
The ministers said there is an “anti-oil sentiment” in the world, and Alberta has been unfairly attacked.
“If someone is working for a manufacturing firm here in Ontario, that they now know that their product is dependent on a vibrant oil and gas industry,” said Liepert.
“We’re hopeful the employees of that organization will stand up and say, ’hold on a minute, you’re attacking my livelihood.’ ”
The group said during their trip they will be meeting with businesses and will be touring environmental operations in London, Ont., reviewing technologies to treat waste water.