Pipeline politics boiled over at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Vancouver Island town hall stop Friday afternoon, with three hecklers, who refused to stop, escorted from the room and the topic dominating almost all others over the course of the gathering.
Within two minutes of the start of the town hall — the sixth and last of the cross-country tour this year — a man seated behind Trudeau began yelling and did not stop despite repeated requests from Trudeau and members of the crowd.
It was not possible to hear what the man was yelling about but several individuals seated adjacent to him raised posters opposing the expansion of pipelines through the province.
The man was escorted out by police shortly afterward, as were two young women who also began yelling.
When Trudeau asked the women to stop out of respect for the crowd, they answered that they did not respect the crowd. That was when the prime minister asked them to leave, and police escorted them out afterwards.
Once the three were removed, the rest of the town hall continued calmly, with Trudeau taking questions ranging from why he decided to approve the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and what the government will do in the event of a spill.
WATCH BELOW: Trudeau hugs woman begging for him to ‘protect our coastline’ referencing Kinder-Morgan pipeline
“Kinder Morgan arrives in a well-serviced, busy port that actually has the capacity to deal with incidents and challenges,” Trudeau responded, noting the now-axed Northern Gateway pipeline was far more remote.
“At the same time, we’ve set forth a significant number of conditions that will have to be met before moving forward.”
The questions came on the heel of an escalating battle between B.C. and Alberta about the pipeline.
Watch below: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently made his thoughts on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project very clear but as Tom Vernon reports, there are growing calls for him to do more to settle the dispute over the controversial project.
The NDP government in B.C. proposed on Wednesday the banning of the expansion of oil imports through the province unless shippers prove they can clean up spills, which prompted Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley to vow to retaliate.
Supporters of the pipeline argue it is vital to Alberta’s ongoing economic recovery, while opponents argue the risk of a spill along the B.C. coast poses too great a risk to be allowed to proceed.
And while pipeline politics dominated the town hall, Trudeau also faced questions about instability on the Korean Peninsula, Iran and the unpredictable state of the world, including one from an eight-year-old girl, who asked him what he was doing to make the world a better place.
WATCH BELOW: Child questions what Trudeau is doing ‘to make this country a better place’
The issue of controversial changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program also reared up, with two women saying they did not support the change to require organizations seeking funding through the program, to tick an attestation affirming support for fundamental rights including reproductive rights.
He described the work done by faith groups across Canada as “essential” and stressed that the changes to the program are intended to target the activities of groups that hire students for activities like “distributing flyers of aborted fetuses to mailboxes across the country to try and rail back women’s rights.”
“If you want to do that, you can do that, but don’t expect the government to give you funding to do that,” he said.
Trudeau likened the decision to proceed with the change to reflection of a conversation on another controversial issue that he had before directing that all Liberal MPs vote to protect reproductive choice in any votes around the issue of abortion.
In the 1980s, years after his father and former prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau helped pass federal legislation loosening grounds for divorce, Trudeau says his father apologized to him and said that despite loosening divorce laws, he would never himself get remarried because of his personal beliefs.
“He said to me, ‘I just want you to know something. I kind of feel bad but I’ll never be able to provide you another mother figure in our home because I don’t believe in divorce,'” Trudeau said, characterizing the conversation.
He said that deciding to require the attestation is about balancing the rights of individuals to believe what they want, while also protecting the hard-won rights of women to control their own bodies, and not about targeting people of faith for their beliefs.