National Newswatch

EDMONTON - Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths took some heat in the legislature Monday for recent comments saying the province's oil and gas wealth "sucks the life" out of everything else in the province.

"Why was the minister out there (in Prince Edward Island) saying that the energy sector sucks the life out of every other aspect of Alberta instead of promoting the very many national benefits of the (proposed) Energy East pipeline?," Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith asked during question period.

Griffiths made the comments a month ago while speaking about his book "Thirteen Ways to Kills Your Community," which is a tongue-in-cheek title for ways to keep communities vibrant.

The Wildrose party made available to media a YouTube video showing Griffiths making the remarks.

Griffiths told the legislature he was speaking in the role of author and not municipal affairs minister at the conference.

He told the house he was using Alberta as one example to make a larger point that any economy that puts its eggs in one basket is asking for trouble.

"There isn't a day that goes by where they (the Wildrose) don't try and smear somebody's reputation," said Griffiths.

"It was entirely done to talk to and promote the idea of regional collaboration, and rural communities and how to fire them up."

Griffith's office sent the full text of his speech.

"Everyone says it (the oil and gas) is a benefit and a bonus because we have such a dominant commodity," reads the text.

"But, you know, it sucks the life out of every other aspect of Alberta.

"It's very difficult to hire people in hotels and restaurants or in arts and culture because they can't compete with the wages, which damages the other parts of your economy.

"It's better to have balance. And, you know, it happens to any community where one industry is dominant.

"Then when it's gone, you have nothing left."

Premier Alison Redford has made it clear in speeches and travels that opening new markets and adding pipeline access for Alberta's oil is Job 1, but she has also stressed the long-term health of the province rests on diversifying the economy.

She told the house Monday she stands behind Griffiths.

The Canadian Press
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