CALGARY — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told Liberal supporters their party is best positioned to get major projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion built because it’s able to take “difficult compromise positions” between growing the economy and protecting the environment.
Trudeau made the remarks at a donor reception Saturday during his annual Calgary Stampede visit, which included fewer public events than in the past.
“Compromise is actually harder and more courageous than sitting on one end of an issue, crossing your arms and saying ‘I’m standing on my principles and I’m not moving,’ because that doesn’t actually require you to listen to another point of view,” he said at a cafe on the 21st floor of a downtown office tower.
A small group of yellow-vest-clad demonstrators held anti-Trudeau signs with crude slogans on the plaza below.
“I can guarantee you all the signs people are waving downstairs on the sidewalk, none of them say ‘Make a smart compromise. Be reasonable,'” Trudeau said.
Anger has been simmering in Alberta over the government’s handling of the pipeline file and carbon tax, as well as recently passed legislation overhauling environmental reviews and banning oil tankers from B.C.’s north coast.
The expansion to the federally owned Trans Mountain pipeline would enable more Alberta crude to flow to the B.C. Lower Mainland, and on to export markets across the Pacific. The federal cabinet approved the project for a second time last month and said it would invest proceeds in green initiatives.
Trans Mountain got its initial green light in 2016, but the Federal Court of Appeal said more work needed to be done on Indigenous consultation and wildlife impact studies.
Ottawa bought the existing pipeline last year after its previous owner, Kinder Morgan, said it would walk away if political roadblocks in B.C. weren’t cleared. Trudeau said in Edmonton on Friday that shovels would be in the ground “later this construction season.”
“The people who are angry about the carbon price do not spend any time saying, ‘Thank you for the TMX, by the way.’ And the people who are angry about TMX don’t spend any time saying, ‘Well, thank you for putting a price on pollution and protecting our oceans,'” he said.
“But those are the voices on the fringes … Canadians know that the way we succeed is by pulling together and being thoughtful about the path forward.”
At an earlier community Stampede breakfast, Isabelle Reynolds angrily confronted Trudeau over the arrest of Mi’kmaq grandmothers protesting the Alton Gas project north of Halifax this spring. The company’s plans to store gas in caverns have stoked environmental concerns.
“The federal government, the provincial government continue to ignore the treaty on that land,” said Reynolds, who goes to university in Nova Scotia.
Trudeau told Reynolds he’d been listening to concerns over Alton Gas. Reynolds said she didn’t believe him.
Reynolds said she didn’t know the prime minister would be at the breakfast.
“I had an opportunity to approach him and I decided to,” she said. “It’s funny — last year he was here and I was excited. This year, not so much.”
Trudeau spent this year’s Stampede visit in the Calgary Centre riding, the only seat in the city held by a Liberal. On Friday he mingled at a downtown diner over the lunch hour with MP Kent Hehr before heading into private meetings.
Past years’ visits have included multiple breakfasts combined with stops at the Stampede midway and rodeo.
Trudeau shrugged off suggestions the Liberals are in trouble in Alberta ahead of October’s federal election.
“We are going to not just bring back our MPs, but bring back more MPs to Ottawa,” Trudeau said.
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press