Quebec endorses oilsands investments

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

MONTREAL — Despite its very public criticism of Alberta’s oil sands, the Quebec government is quietly urging the province’s businesspeople to cash in on the energy bonanza.

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

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

It’s a far cry from the one delivered at the climate conference in Copenhagen, where the Charest government cast itself as the green hero to Alberta’s environmental villain.

A spokeswoman for Economic Development Minister Clement Gignac says there’s actually no inconsistency.

Nancy-Sonia Trudelle said the businesses selected for the mission will offer “innovative environmental technologies,” which would reduce the impact of gas and petroleum projects.

“What we want to promote there is how to help reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions,” Trudelle said.

Trudelle said the deadline for applications was Thursday, but would not reveal which companies expressed interest.

She said the so-called National Buyer/Seller Forum is also a chance to get Quebec companies better known in Alberta.

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

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

A number of examples of possible investments are listed on the website — including a $5.5 billion project by Suncor to restart the Firebag 3 oilsands site in 2011.

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 web ad, quoted PQ environment critic Scott McKay saying that the Charest government has promoted car-friendly policies while painting itself as an environmental champion.

Quebec scolded the federal government for failure to address climate change. But the province’s own greenhouse emissions have increased more than five per cent since 1990.

Also, Quebec 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 has continued pocketing its $8 billion federal equalization cheque each year with the other. That equalization fund receives a huge windfall from oil revenues.

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