Stelmach will stay mum until election is over

The possibility of a slowdown in oilsands development has divided Alberta’s political parties after several industry giants called on the province to temporarily halt further development.



For the first time, a business-led group, including Petro-Canada, Imperial Oil and Suncor, has asked Alberta to institute a partial moratorium until 2011 in order to preserve sections of boreal forest.



The request, not supported by all industry players, was lauded by environmental groups and the New Democrats yesterday.

"There’s no need to develop the tarsands all at once," NDP Leader Brian Mason said in a release. "We owe it to future generations."

But Conservative Leader Ed Stelmach said he will hold off on making a decision until June. Speaking to reporters in Calgary, he reiterated his stance that he won’t slow development, later using his comments as a springboard into attacking his Liberal rivals.

"Governments do not control the economy," he said. "The last time the economy was controlled by a government was back in the 1980s and it was the federal Trudeau Liberals. We’re not going back to those dark days."

Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft, whose provincial party is separate from the federal Liberals, has accused the Tories of resorting to fear-mongering on the campaign trail.

He said many Albertans have been calling for some kind of oilsands slowdown and the environmental toll continues.

"Clearly, there’s a consensus building here … and Ed Stelmach is out of sync with it," he said. "The consensus is, we need to manage oilsands development better."