Cheers, jeers for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Calgary town hall

Cheers, boos for PM at Calgary town hall

CALGARY — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau launched an impassioned defence for balancing the environment and economy at a raucous town hall in the heart of oil country Tuesday.

A man wearing a shirt with “I Love Oil Sands” written on it and a hat emblazoned with U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan took Trudeau to task for earlier oilsands comments.

At a town hall in Ontario earlier this month, Trudeau was criticized for saying the oilsands would need to be phased out eventually. At the close of a Calgary cabinet retreat earlier Tuesday, he said he misspoke.

The questioner at Tuesday night’s gathering accused the prime minister of making inconsistent statements depending on whether he was in eastern or western Canada.

“You’re in Alberta right now, sir. You’re not in Ottawa,” the man shouted. “Yet when you come to Calgary, you tell people you’re sorry.

“You are either a liar or you’re confused. And I’m beginning to think it’s both.”

The man asked Trudeau whether he would take back the remark, prompting cheers from some in the crowd of more than 1,700.

Trudeau replied that he has been consistent in his oilsands message.

“I have repeatedly said that yes, the responsibility of any Canadian prime minister is to get our resources to market and yes, that includes our oilsands fossil fuels,” he said.

“I’ve also said that we need to do that in a responsible, sustainable way â€” that you cannot separate what’s good for the environment and what’s good for the economy.”

Trudeau said even former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper recognized the world would have to get off fossil fuels eventually.

He asked the crowd of mostly students to put up their hands if they think climate change is real and virtually everyone did.

A few other questions at the town hall touched on the economic pain Alberta has been going through in recent years as a result of low oil prices.

The unemployment rate in Alberta, where the economy largely centres on the oil and gas sector, was at 8.5 per cent in December, higher than the national rate of 6.9 per cent. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs over the past few years.

Trudeau was also grilled on Canada’s future peacekeeping role, trade, violence against indigenous women and strategies to tackle poverty.

A handful of hecklers interrupted Trudeau throughout the event at the University of Calgary. Trudeau responded by drawing on his past life as a teacher, telling one man he didn’t want to reward bad behaviour by giving it too much attention.

Trudeau and the federal cabinet wrapped up a two-day retreat in Calgary earlier Tuesday that was focused largely on how to deal with an unpredictable new administration south of the border.

— follow @LaurenKrugel on Twitter

 

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Meningococcal disease outbreak declared in Okanagan

Five cases in last six months among 15-to-19 year-olds, including one in Coldstream

Mail bandit puts damper on Christmas in Central Okanagan

Mail Box thefts have been reported throughout the Okanagan

West Kelowna RCMP seeks to reunite stolen items to owners

Numerous personal belongings were found during a seizure

Budget 2018: Kelowna to look at monitoring downtown security cameras 24 hours per day

Potential $30,000 budget item will be discussed further over objections of the mayor

Stalled work on Kelowna’s Rutland Centennial Park to get another look

During budget deliberations, mayor calls for further improvements to park to be discussed by council

VIDEO: Average Canadian food bill to rise by $348 in 2018

Atlantic Canada and B.C. will see the most increases for consumers

Charges in car wash shooting stalled

Court waits for police watchdog report on Salmon Arm incident.

B.C. Mountie told to resign after texting teenage sex assault victim

RCMP documents say Const. Brian Eden sent sexually inappropriate photos to 17-year-old girl

Family doctors should learn to treat addiction, not shun patients: scientist

B.C. Centre on Substance Use’s Dr. Evan Wood said efforts underway to change addiction medicine image

Four dog deaths investigated in Cranbrook

One vet suggests a parallel to these deaths and similar ones in 2016

Province rejects Ajax mine in Kamloops

KGHM Ajax had proposed a 1,700-hectare open-pit copper and gold mine, just southwest of Kamloops

Border officers rally at B.C.’s Peace Arch

CBSA employees tire of ‘lack of respect’

FCC votes along party lines to end ‘net neutrality’

Move rolls back restrictions that keep big providers from blocking services they don’t like

Performance embodies true meaning of Christmas

Caravan Farm Theatre presents O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi by Maristella Roca until Dec. 31

Most Read