Alberta Wildrose leader again under fire for hedging on climate change

EDMONTON – Alberta’s Opposition leader is again under fire for refusing to take a stand on whether climate change exists.

Danielle Smith is being “weasely” and “disingenuous” for promising to fight greenhouse gases while refusing to say if she believes they are a problem in the first place, NDP Leader Brian Mason said Thursday.

“It’s a dodge,” Mason said.

“What she is saying is kind of weasely words. It’s trying to have it both ways (by saying), ‘I personally don’t know if there is climate change or not, but we’re going to oppose (greenhouse gases) because other people think so.’

“That’s not leadership. Tell us what you think, Danielle, and then stand up for it.”

Environment Minister Diana McQueen, with the governing Progressive Conservative party, said the issue strikes at Smith’s ability to take charge.

“Leadership is about taking stances on positions,” said McQueen.

“Albertans deserve to know what their leaders think, where they stand on issues. Danielle Smith is showing no leadership on this issue, or others.”

Smith made her comments Wednesday while taking questions from reporters on party resolutions to be debated at the Wildrose annual general meeting in Red Deer on Saturday.

Two of those resolutions deal with taking steps to reduce greenhouse gases.

Smith stressed the party wants to do something on emissions because the global community demands Alberta do so.

“We know we have to do something whether or not there are issues that are unsettled,” said Smith.

“We know we have to do something because we have obligations nationally and internationally. We also have our customers who are demanding that we produce our resources in a way that is more environmentally responsible.”

But Smith said the party will not issue a resolution on whether climate change exists. She said that would be unfair to do so.

“I don’t expect our members to be scientists,” she said.

“I just expect them to pass policy that allows us to give a pretty clear indication of what we would actually do if we were government.”

When asked if she believes in climate change, she replied: “I’m not a scientist.

“I don’t think people are interested in hearing what politicians have to say about scientific matters. You can ask scientists that.

“My obligation is to make sure we have a policy that makes sense.”

Mason said the climate change question speaks to Wildrose’s credibility.

In the 2012 election, a Wildrose lead in the polls evaporated just days before the vote when Smith was criticized for refusing to toss overboard two candidates for anti-gay and racist remarks and for insisting the science of climate change is not settled.

Mason said while the intolerant remarks of two candidates did some damage, Smith’s climate change denial was the kill shot.

Premier Alison Redford leveraged those remarks by telling voters an Alberta leader heading to Washington and Brussels to preach that climate change may not exist would make the province a global laughingstock.

“That confirmed for people in their minds that there was a problem (with the Wildrose), that it wasn’t just a couple of rogue candidates, but even at the leadership level there was some dogmatism that was troubling,” said Mason.

McQueen has recently visited leaders in the U.S. and Europe to talk about Alberta’s efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of its oilsands operations.

She said she couldn’t imagine having to meet foreign leaders to sell the story that climate change may not be real.

“People would just think you’re ridiculous and they wouldn’t be taking you seriously. It would just be a joke on the province of Alberta,” she said.

Mason said the solution is obvious.

“If (Smith) is going to put that to rest, she has to come out and clearly say, ‘Yes, this party accepts that there is climate change that is human induced and it is a serious problem for us in Alberta — as it is around the world — and we need to take a stand and do something about it,'” he said.

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