Bob Rae, Liberals seek middle ground on oilsands development

An oil worker holds raw oilsands near Fort McMurray, Alta., on July 9, 2008.In the midst of all the 'unite the left' chatter, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae is reminding Canadians why his party might still be relevant.

Rae waded into the oilsands debate last week, giving Canadians an alternative option to the Tories' "drill baby drill" plan and the New Democrats' environment-first mantra.

"I don't think it's just a matter of saying 'I'm pro-development' or 'I'm anti-development,' I think everybody recognizes it's a huge resource for Canada. The question is: Can we do it in a sustainable way?"

Attempting to strike a middle ground, Rae told CBC Radio's The House that "the key word in all this is balance."

"You can't just grow a development from 100,000 people to a quarter of a million people in 10 years or 15 years without really thinking through all of the social and economic implications as well as the environmental ones. . . . We have to recognize that we are, in part, a resource economy — we're also a manufacturing economy . . . and a service economy — but, to deny the fact that we are a resource economy strikes me as ludicrous," he said, according to the National Post.

It seems that in an ever-increasing polarized political environment, the Liberals are trying to nudge the other parties to the sides and re-brand themselves as Canada's party of 'balance.'

[ Related: Call for pipeline safety review in Alberta grows to include 50 groups ]

Lately, when Liberals speak they're often heard comparing the Conservatives to the "Tea Party" and the New Democrats to the "Occupy" movement in the United States. Rae even made those references last month at his press conference where he announced he wouldn't seek the permanent leadership.

While it seems to be a clever strategy, former Liberal MP Dan McTeague says its just who the Liberals have always been.

"What you have here is this predisposition by extreme parties on the right and parties on the left gaining by divide and conquer," he told Yahoo! Canada News with regards to the oilsands debate.

"That's not the Canadian way.  It may have worked recently but I think Canadians can see through that kind of charade  and want people who will speak for the country. Our party has traditionally done that — although it does not have the seats to back it up right now.

"Canadians don't want a battle between right and left."

Canada's third party is hoping that it has rediscovered its raison d'etre.

[ Related: Environment ministers look at new oilsands monitoring sites ]