In his first speech as prime minister of the Liberal minority government, Justin Trudeau addressed major concerns in Alberta and Saskatchewan and the sense of alienation and anger in Western Canada.
“Albertans and people in Saskatchewan have faced very difficult years over these past few years because of global commodity prices, because of challenges they’re facing, that for a long time they weren’t able to get their resources to markets other than the United States.
“We are moving forward to solve some of those challenges but it’s going to take all Canadians sticking together, helping out folks who are struggling in places like Alberta and Saskatchewan. This is what Canadians expect of their government,” Trudeau said.
He reiterated the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will continue, despite other political parties’ opposition to the project.
“We made the decision to move forward on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion because it was in Canada’s interest to do so — because the environment and economy need to go together,” he said from the National Press Theatre in Ottawa.
“Right now, and for too long, we have been selling our natural resources to the United States at a discount and that doesn’t serve anyone. It certainly doesn’t serve the transition and the investments in clean energy and fighting climate change that take resources and take money to be able to do.
“Getting our resources to markets other than the United States and getting that done as quickly as possible remains a priority for us.”
Alberta’s energy minister responded to Trudeau’s TMX confirmation Wednesday.
“That’s good because we expect it to go ahead,” Sonya Savage said.
“We had three of the federal parties run on a platform that was anti-pipeline, anti-oil and gas and anti-Alberta. Three of those platforms were very detrimental to Alberta.
“Albertans have the constitutional right to develop and manage and control our natural resources and we had three federal leaders who don’t even understand the constitution and that Alberta has that right.
“That’s why we’re standing up for Albertans’ rights. That pipeline — there’s no basis for it not to be built and we expect it to be built,” Savage said.
The prime minister went on to say that profits from the pipeline will be invested in green energy and combating climate change.
He also addressed the lack of Liberal representation in both Alberta and Saskatchewan — two provinces that elected only Conservative MPs, with the exception of Edmonton-Strathcona, which elected an NDP candidate, Heather McPherson.
Trudeau said he plans to reflect on how to ensure the two provinces are represented by his government in Ottawa.
“It’s extremely important that the government works for all Canadians, as I’ve endeavored to do over the past years and as I will do even more now, deliberately.
“I will be reaching out to leaders across the country, reaching out specifically to Westerners to hear from them.”
He has already spoken to premiers Jason Kenney and Scott Moe, as well as Calgary’s mayor, Naheed Nenshi. Trudeau said he intends to have a conversation with Edmonton’s mayor, Don Iveson, as well.
“This is something I take very seriously as a responsibility to ensure we are moving forward in ways that benefit all Canadians and I will be listening and working with a broad range of people to ensure that that happens.”
“My guess is he’ll pull cabinet representation out of the Senate. Paula Simons, in particular for Alberta,” Lori Williams, associate professor of political science at Mount Royal University,
Alberta NDP MLA Shannon Phillips said Alberta’s representation in the federal government is a concern.
“We’ll continue to do what we’ve always done — to talk to other Canadians about the benefit of protecting working peoples’ livelihoods in this province.”
Phillips, who formerly served as Alberta’s environment minister when the NDP was in power, said her government’s advocacy for the TMX project boosted popular support for it and paved the way for the federal Liberals to buy the pipeline expansion “without political consequence” in Monday’s election.
“That’s a good thing for Albertans,” she said. “He’s obviously saying the right things around moving forward with it. There’s precious little else they can do.
“I’ve heard some conspiracy theories out there that the pipeline won’t move forward but it is actually — pipe is moving from yards right now. They wouldn’t spend $4.6 billion on a conspiracy project.”
Williams reiterated confirming TMX was not unexpected.
“Obviously, they are $4.6 billion invested in that project already,” she said. “They’ve done a lot of work on the consultation and the environmental assessment.”
Williams said that if other parties tried to take the pipeline issue to a non-confidence vote, the Conservatives would vote it down, backing the pipeline.
As for priorities for his cabinet, which he expects to swear in on Nov. 20, Trudeau says Canadians demanded action on affordability and fighting climate change.
While Trudeau said he wants to meet with all of the federal leaders to understand the issues Canadians are facing, he ruled out any true partnership.
“I can tell you it is not in our plans at all to form any sort of coalition, formal or informal.”
But Williams said a few references in speeches will not be enough for Trudeau to appease many Albertans.
“We’re talking about people who are just really angry and upset about the condition of the economy. And it doesn’t really matter how much he invests or how much he does – if it’s not actually helping people who are struggling and suffering right now, it will not be enough. It will not satisfy them.”