Trudeau meets potential bridge-builder Pallister during cabinet retreat

Justin Trudeau meets with Brian Pallister in Winnipeg
WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was all smiles as he met with Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met on Monday with the least hostile of conservative Prairie premiers, Manitoba’s Brian Pallister.

The tete-a-tete comes on the second day of a three-day federal cabinet retreat being held in Winnipeg as part of a bid to reach out to a region that spurned Trudeau’s Liberals in the Oct. 21 election.

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The election reduced the Liberals to a minority; they were entirely shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan and lost three of seven seats in Manitoba.

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Pallister has signalled his willingness to act as something of a bridge between the federal government and the other two openly hostile Prairie premiers, Alberta’s Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe.

They blame federal environmental policies for gutting their provinces’ energy industries. Since the Liberals were re-elected with a minority, talk of alienation and even outright separatism has ramped up in the two oil and gas-producing provinces.

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But while the cabinet retreat is an exercise in outreach to the discontented region, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson signalled Sunday that the government’s plan to combat climate change, including the centrepiece national carbon tax, isn’t likely to be modified to mollify westerners.

Manitoba premier wants to be unifying force in regional divide
Manitoba premier wants to be unifying force in regional divide