In Calgary appearance, Trudeau offers empathy but no plans for action

Anti Bill C-69 Protesters greet Prime Minister Trudeau in his visit to Calgary on Nov.22, 2018. (Andrew Bardsley/The Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told Albertans that the province’s economy is facing a crisis that “cannot continue.”

But the PM had little concrete help to offer during a day-long visit to Calgary on Nov.22.

It was highlighted by a massive demonstration outside the Hyatt-Regency Hotel, where he spoke to the Chamber of Commerce.

Trudeau, making his first appearance before a local business audience since 2016, acknowledged that Alberta has faced serious economic challenges in the past three years, and that people are worried.

“I want you to know that I feel that frustration and I understand that anxiety.

“The status quo cannot continue,” Trudeau said.

“When the path forward isn’t certain, and when the entire world is rethinking the way we do business, people here feel it more than most.

“But the men and women of this province are resilient. They’re incredibly hardworking,” said Trudeau in his brief statement prior to the question and answer portion of his Chamber appearance.

The PM wouldn’t commit to speeding up approval of the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion to the West Coast, or to rewriting Bill C-69, which will transform the way major development projects, such as oil sands mines, are assessed.

Trudeau did not express support for a proposal by the Notley government to purchase addition rail tanker cars to improve shipment of bitumen to the Coast while the pipeline project undergoes further study by the National Energy Board.

Rather, he told the audience that there are no easy answers to the economic crisis.

“This is a multi-faceted complex problem,” he said, adding that his government would do everything in its power to get the Trans-Mountain project built.

While Trudeau spoke inside the Hyatt-Regency Hotel downtown, about 1,500 people demonstrated outside, many of them waving signs and chanting ‘Build that pipe.’

City police closed Centre Street South between 7th and 9th Avenues to accommodate the crowds, which included hundreds of members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, who are on strike for a new contract with Canada Post.

Also in attendance was provincial Opposition Leader Jason Kenney of the Alberta United Conservative Party, who offered news reporters a rebuttal to Trudeau.

“I mean, listen, if Ontario’s auto industry was in full crisis mode, if Quebec’s aviation sector was facing a five-alarm fire, he (Trudeau) would be walking in there with multi-billion-dollar subsidy cheques.

“Just yesterday he announced $600 million in subsidies for media outlets.”

“I want you to know that I feel that frustration and I understand that anxiety.” –Justin Trudeau

Trudeau made several other stops during his day in Calgary.

He met privately with oil industry leaders to talk about the so-called price gap, which has resulted in producers receiving some $40 less per barrel for their output than the world price for oil.

Trudeau met with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, to talk about the economy and to follow up on the rejection by voters on Nov. 13 of the city’s proposed bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games, despite a commitment by Ottawa of $1.4 billion for the project.

The PM also snipped the ribbon on a new affordable housing project in the Glenmore Park area, and attended an event for female youth hockey players from across Canada at Win-Sport.

In a separate appearance in Calgary Nov. 22, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told a meeting of the oil well drilling contractors group that her government had asked the feds to contribute to the purchase of additional oil tank cars to ship bitumen to the West Coast.

But she added that if Ottawa doesn’t agree to contribute, Alberta will foot the $300-million bill for the cars itself.

About Andrew Bardsley 2 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Andrew Bardsley is working as a writer for The Press during the 2018-19 academic year.