EDMONTON – Alberta Premier Alison Redford is shaking her head over recent attacks on the oilsands by celebrities Robert Redford and Neil Young, noting the stars use those same resources to go around “flying on planes.”
“This is not different than what they have been saying for some time. It certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone,” the premier told reporters on a conference call from China, where she was on a trade mission Tuesday.
“I’ve really got to question how people who are using (conventional) energy flying on planes can make these sorts of comments and assume that they are going to have any credibility.
“We have to start having a discussion based on the facts. That’s not what we’re seeing here.”
Young was in the Fort McMurray area earlier this month. He said he drove his custom hybrid 1959 Lincoln Continental up from the U.S., though a Fort McMurray filmmaker hired to film scenes for a documentary on the car said there was a diesel bus that followed along for the crew.
Young went away calling the region a post-apocalyptic landscape that was making native people in the area sick. “Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima,” the singer said.
On Monday, Robert Redford released a short video urging U.S. President Barack Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
The pipe would ship Alberta oilsands bitumen south across North America to refineries on the Gulf Coast in Texas. Proponents say it’s a critical link to boosting Alberta’s economy and ensuring the U.S. has a source of oil distinct from the volatile politics of the Middle East.
But in the video, Robert Redford agrees with critics who say the environmental degradation and the risk of catastrophe from pipeline spills are too high a price to pay.
“I can understand why oil companies love tarsands,” the actor says, standing in a field. “There’s a lot of money to be made by strip mining and drilling the dirtiest oil on the planet — but why should the rest of us pay the price?”
His comments are delivered over images of blackened, denuded land around oilsands operations in Fort McMurray, north of Edmonton.
“Developing the Canadian tarsands is destroying our great northern forests at a terrifying rate,” intones the actor, famous for roles in “All the President’s Men,” “The Sting,” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
“It’s killing our planet, and there’s no energy security in that.”
Redford and Young join a list of celebrities, such as Daryl Hannah, critical of Keystone and the oilsands.
Alison Redford’s predecessor as premier, Ed Stelmach, met with Hollywood producer-director James Cameron in September 2010 after Cameron criticized the oilsands as a “black eye” and a “dead-end paradigm.”
Cameron had just completed “Avatar,” a futuristic film about indigenous peoples on a far-flung planet battling business types bent on ripping and razing their land with massive claw machines in order to get at the minerals underneath.
Cameron said he presented Stelmach with studies suggesting the cancer rate is 30 per cent higher than normal in downstream communities, but Stelmach presented his own figures refuting that.
Since Alison Redford became premier two years ago, she has made it clear that high-profile critics coming to tour the oilsands will not receive her assistance to get up on a soapbox.
When federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair came to Alberta last May to tour the oilsands and talk to leaders, he was met not by Redford but by Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk.