CALGARY — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau literally rubbed elbows with Alberta’s premier and Calgary’s mayor Wednesday following months of phone calls and online meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trudeau and Premier Jason Kenney met in a small room at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel. They bumped elbows instead of shaking hands before sitting down, a short distance apart, in large leather chairs.
“It’s great to be back in Alberta, a great opportunity to sit down to chat with Jason,” Trudeau said.
“The premier and I have had many, many, many, many calls over the past year and a half, because of the pandemic, but on a broad range of things. It really has been a time where we’ve been working together as a federation with, I think, excellent results.”
Trudeau said he realizes Albertans are looking forward to the upcoming Calgary Stampede and are “feeling pretty good about things.”
“We’re going to keep being there to work together and make sure that people are safe. On rebuilding lots of investments, lots of opportunities to get our economies even stronger in the next couple of years.”
Kenney said it was good to meet with Trudeau in person “after 16 tough months.”
“It’s nice to be able to welcome you back to Alberta as we start to get some more domestic travel going,” Kenney said.
“I do hope to talk to you about that, about how we can help the 800,000 workers in the travel and tourism industries get back to work.”
The premier also said Alberta is “crushing COVID” and was pleased governments have done their best to “park the politics” during the pandemic.
There were 33 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta on Tuesday for a total of 763 active cases across the province. There were 138 people in hospital, with 32 in intensive care. A total of 2,305 people in Alberta have died due to the virus.
Kenney noted that things have been particularly difficult in Alberta during the pandemic.
“We were hit harder than any province because of the energy crisis collapse on top of everything else last year … but a lot of projections suggest we’re going to lead the country in growth,” he said.
A short time later, Trudeau held a meeting with Mayor Naheed Nenshi in the same room.
Nenshi, who has announced he won’t be seeking re-election in this fall’s municipal vote, has had a long and friendly relationship with the prime minister.
“Lots of things to talk about but your ambitions for the city and your care for the people of Calgary continues right up to the last minute,” said Trudeau.
“It’s always such a pleasure to be working with you and connecting on how we can continue working together for Calgarians.”
The two men, who also elbow bumped during the meeting, discussed Nenshi’s unique face masks — including a purple, handmade one he was wearing Wednesday.
“It’s an amazing collection,” said Trudeau.
Nenshi said the mask was from a friend, who makes the masks and gives them away free to anyone who wants them. She just asks that they make a donation to charity, he said.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau stopped at a business, AAA Doors Ltd., which received federal COVID-19 pandemic support.
He was given a tour of the facility and noted that the team “feels like a huge family,” before asking how the business managed during the pandemic.
An employee said it was thanks to federal funding they were able to survive.
“We made a promise. We did what Canadians do — we were there for each other,” said Trudeau, adding the funding allowed businesses to “scale up quickly” after varied public health restrictions.
Some protesters stood outside both of Trudeau’s stops and yelled. One woman held a flag with an upside down Maple Leaf and the word “freedom.” Another woman called Trudeau a “treasonous leader,” while a man told him “to go back to Toronto.”
Local police, RCMP and security were on site at both locations.