ed stelmach: a victim of responsibility.

As the realization that over 500 ducks had died in one of northern Alberta’s tarsands toxic tailing ponds hits home, there was a big contrast in how two of Alberta’s political leaders handled the heat.

In Edmonton for the opening of the Mazankowski Heart Institute at the University of Alberta, Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn’t hesitate in saying that this loss of wildlife should not have happened and that it was a “terrible tragedy” that is unacceptable to Canadians.

In contrast, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach came out swinging against environmental and northern community groups by positioning himself as the victim of a “David and Goliath” battle against environmental and public interest groups in Alberta.

If you think it’s a little rich that the victim card is being played by a Premier who’s government just 1) won a 72-seat majority in the March 2008 election, 2) released a $37-billion provincial budget, and 3) launched a $25-million advertising campaign to “rebrand” Alberta’s tarsands, you’re probably right.

Stelmach also tried to downplay the real victims of this incident – the over 500 tailing-pond-marinated dead ducks – by claiming that 30,000 birds get killed by wind turbines each year (which isn’t true).

As hard as Stelmach tries to play the victim card, whether he likes it or not, he’s the Premier of Alberta and the buck stops with him. He has a responsibility to Albertans to deal with disturbing incidents like these ones without complaining or pointing fingers. Occupying the Office of the Premier brings great responsibility, not victimization.

Alberta’s government has stood idle as the economic boom in the tarsands have dotted northern Alberta with tailing ponds – giant lakes of toxic chemical water. This week’s tragic incident highlights to Albertans and to the world just how damaging current tarsands practices are to Alberta’s environment and it is time for Alberta to put a real stop to this type of nonsensical practice.

The responsibility to lead usually falls to the Premier, but if Ed Stelmach’s not up for the job, there are no shortage of others who are interested.

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