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Oil sands debate not 'either-or': Liberal leader Rae

Federal Liberal leader Bob Rae thinks it's possible to reconcile oil sands development with environmental concerns.

Recent clashes between the federal Conservative government and its official NDP opposition, Rae added, represent a dichotomy that is 'patently false.'

“Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair want Canadians to believe that developing the Alberta oil sands is an either-or proposition,” said Mr. Rae in a statement. "Liberals understand that we can reap the benefits of oil sands development and mitigate the environmental impact, but only if we engage and consult with parties on all sides of this issue.”

Rae's comments come as he begins a three-day tour of northern Alberta's vast bitumen mines.

His 'third way' proposition could be indication of future energy policy for the Liberals, speculated Postmedia parliamentary report Lee Berthiaume, "as they attempt to claw their way back to relevance."

Former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff didn't sound nearly so conciliatory as Rae when he told a Vancouver crowd in 2009 that the oil sands are "awe-inspiring", a resource that "changes everything about Canada’s importance in the world.”

Added Ignatieff: "Everybody expects me to say they’re terrible and shut them down. Absolutely not.”

A major Tyee series recently described some of the steps Alberta and Canada could take to legitimately address the massive carbon footprint of oil sands development.

If Rae is serious about his 'third way' vision, he might listen to the oil patch executives who think a national carbon tax is the best to shrink Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

Geoff Dembicki reports on energy and climate change issues for The Tyee.

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