Prime Minister Stephen Harper says pictures and international headlines about 500 ducks that died in a toxic tailings pond in Northern Alberta are smearing our environmental image.
“I am not here to make any excuses for the particular event that has occurred in the last few days,” Harper said yesterday when asked by Metro Edmonton to comment on the tragedy.
“This is a terrible event, it’s not going to do anybody’s image any good.”
Two of the three surviving ducks brought to the city for care — and featured in yesterday’s Metro Edmonton — have died.
U.S. media have prominently featured footage of the sick and dying ducks, including CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, according to the Natural Resources Defence Council.
After hearing Harper’s comments, Premier Ed Stelmach at once downplayed the incident saying that wind turbines caused 30,000 bird deaths annually.
“It’s well known that on an annual basis a minimum number of birds killed by wind turbines is around 30,000,” said Stelmach, who joined Harper yesterday at the opening of the new Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute.
“We have approximately 500 birds that perished here and we are going to get to the bottom of it.”
The incident has left the government with an oily black eye as it is set to kick off a $25 million campaign to boost Alberta’s image when it comes to its oilsands projects, including trips with U.S. government officials and with dignitaries to environmentally conscious California.
Harper said oil companies “have received more criticism than they deserve” in recent years, but the dead-duck saga has raised an alarm in Canada.
“I think (Alberta’s) government and my government are prepared to work together to make sure industry fulfills its existing obligation and any new obligations we think are necessary,” said Harper.
“It is important that we have good environmental record and a good environmental image.”
The ducks were found in Syncrude’s Aurora mine tailing pond near Fort McMurray. The company blamed extreme weather conditions for not being able to place its propane-powered seasonal audible noise makers at the pool.
An Alberta Environment-led investigation still continues.