Quits critic post, apologizes for telling western colleagues to think nationally on energy or go home
Jason Fekete And Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa
With Files From Tobi Cohen, Postmedia News And The Canadian Press
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Ottawa Liberal MP David Mc-Guinty apologized Wednesday and resigned his post as the party's natural resources critic after he said Alberta MPs need to
take a nationwide view of energy policies or go home.
"I would like to unreservedly and unequivocally apologize for comments which I made with respect to parliamentary colleagues from the province of
Alberta. My words in no way reflect the views of my party or leader, and I offer my apology to them as well as my colleagues from Alberta," McGuinty said in a
"I hold all Parliamentarians in high esteem, and I regret my choice of words, as I can understand the offence they have caused. I have offered my
resignation as energy and natural resources critic to my leader, and he has accepted. I look forward to continuing to serve my constituents in the House of
Commons." The controversy arose Tuesday after a meeting of the Commons natural resources committee, which was devoted to a study of energy innovation.
McGuinty accused Conservative MPs from Alberta of being "shills" for the oil industry, particularly Alberta's oilsands.
"They really should go back to Alberta and either run for municipal council in a city that's deeply affected by the oilsands business or go run for
the Alberta legislature," he told a reporter outside the committee room.
The apology by McGuinty and resignation of his critic's post came a few hours after interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae offered an unreserved and unqualified
apology for McGuinty's comments, which prompted sharp rebukes from the Conservatives.
McGuinty's comments could also threaten the Liberals' chances to win a byelection next week in Calgary.
The Liberals came under intense fire in the House of Commons for the comments, and Rae tried to distance himself and the party from Mc-Guinty's words - though he acknowledged the timing was "unhelpful" to the Liberals' chances of capturing the seat in Calgary Centre.
"Unreservedly and without qualification, I apologize," Rae told reporters. "It doesn't reflect my views. It doesn't reflect my approach to this issue. It
doesn't reflect the way in which I would address it or describe it. It doesn't reflect my view of how MPs do their job."
The byelection in Calgary Centre had been shaping up as a three-way race, with some seeing Liberal candidate Harvey Locke as having a real chance to
capture a seat in what has long been part of the Conservative heartland.
Rae maintained the Ottawa South MP's only crime was a poor choice of words.
"I think he was expressing some exasperation with the difficulty of getting the (parliamentary) committee to look at a national approach on energy,"
Rae said. "I think the way he expressed himself was unfortunate and it's certainly not how I would express the issue.
"We all make mistakes and certainly this counts as one."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper argued Wednesday in the House of Commons that the comments reflect a long-held anti-Alberta attitude within the Liberal
party that dates back to the Trudeau government's controversial National Energy Program of the early 1980s.
"I find it shameful, I guess not surprising, but shameful, that 30 years after the National Energy Program, these anti-Alberta attitudes are so close to
the surface in the Liberal party," Harper said.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, a Calgary member of Parliament, said Alberta Conservative MPs and likely the vast majority of Albertans find
McGuinty's comments "deeply offensive."
Kenney said it's "totally inappropriate" and "arrogant" for a parliamentarian to tell elected colleagues they don't belong in Ottawa and that they shouldn't be representing their constituents and advocating for economic growth in an energy industry that's driving the Canadian economy.
"I don't think he ever said that Bloc QuÃ©bÃ©cois MPs should go back to Quebec because they were elected to represent the interests of their Quebec
constituents, but he seems to apply a double standard to Albertans, which is the long track record of his party, after all," Kenney told reporters.
Michelle Rempel, another Tory Calgary MP and the parliamentary secretary to the environment minister, called McGuinty's comments "shameful" and divisive. She said if McGuinty went to Calgary and spoke to the people in her riding, he would realize how pejorative it is to suggest MPs to go back to Alberta.
NDP natural resources critic Peter Julian said he has no idea what prompted McGuinty's comments and argued they were divisive, unhelpful and
unbecoming of a parliamentarian.
"It's one thing to criticize government policies. I certainly feel we've been very strong critics of how the government is proceeding. We don't think the
government is right at all on energy policy generally," he said.
"It's an important discussion, but a different debate than the comments that Mr. McGuinty put out and the reality is, they are far too close to the type
of divisiveness we are seeing from the Conservatives and I don't think it's helpful."
David McGuinty is the brother of Dalton McGuinty, who is stepping down as Ontario premier. Rae has asked Liberal House Leader Marc Garneau to take on the role of the natural resources critic for the party on an interim basis. ILLUS: Pat McGrath, Ottawa Citizen / David McGuinty's words may cost the Liberals in