Going where few Canadian leaders dare to tread, author and political candidate Linda McQuaig set off a political firestorm this weekend by suggesting that much of the Alberta tar sands should be left “in the ground” if the country has any hope of achieving its climate change targets.
“A lot of people recognize that a lot of the oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground if we’re going to meet our climate change targets,” McQuaig, a candidate with the New Democratic Party (NDP) in Toronto, said during a Friday panel discussion on CBC’s Power & Politics television program.
McQuaig, who authored such books as The Trouble With Billionaires and It’s the Crude, Dude, noted that Canada will have a better idea of just how much the industry is impeding the country’s climate goals once we “put in place a climate change accountability system of some kind and… once we have a proper review process for our environmental projects like pipelines.” This process, she added, “has been absolutely gutted under the conservative government.”
As supporters note, McQuaig said nothing but a “simple fact” backed by scientific research, including a landmark 2009 Oxford study which found that “less than half the proven economically recoverable oil, gas and coal reserves can still be emitted” to keep total global warming beneath 2°C.
Despite this, her comments were immediately seized upon by the political establishment as well as the mainstream media as “anti-Alberta.”
Alberta Opposition House Leader Brian Jean said Saturday that McQuaig’s remarks were “deeply concerning” and called on Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to “actively repudiate this crazy idea in the strongest terms possible.”
“God forbid a journalist and candidate raise in the mildest terms a basic scientific fact concerning the most pressing issue of our generation.”
And Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a longtime champion of the tar sands industry, attempted to use the comments to his advantage, saying on Sunday that McQuaig’s call to “leave it in the ground,” highlights the NDP’s “not-so-hidden agenda on development.”
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