Natural Resource Minister scolds Mulcair

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Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver scolded the boss of the federal NDP on Saturday prior to the Opposition leader’s trip west.

Thomas Mulcair is set to visit Fort McMurray, Alta., this week, but Oliver and western leaders have recently been at odds with the NDP chief over an economic theory dubbed "Dutch disease."

"First of all, he’s not on sound ground economically. The so-called Dutch disease really has been debunked as a theory by a number of economic studies," Oliver told QMI Agency. "It really is divisive, and that’s not a smart thing politically and it’s not the right thing for someone who aspires to be the prime minister of Canada."

Mulcair believes Canada’s resource boom is hollowing out the manufacturing sector in Ontario and Quebec while affecting the value of the Canadian dollar.

"The Dutch disease is setting in in Canada," he said earlier this month. "The Canadian dollar is artificially high because we are allowing the companies — especially in the oilsands — to use the air, the soil and water as an unlimited free dumping ground."

New Statistics Canada figures, however, show growth in the manufacturing sector, largely due to natural resources.

Mulcair maintains his debate is with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but western leaders have also hammered his views.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford says Mulcair should make it clear whether he sees Canada’s resources as a "tremendous benefit" to the country.

"I find him quite unpredictable with respect to some of his comments," she said Friday following a meeting with Oliver.

Redford and the premiers of B.C. and Saskatchewan are also upset by comments Mulcair made this month suggesting western leaders are acting as Harper’s "messengers."

-with files from Jessica Murphy and Mark Dunn

On Twitter: @kkirkup