Trudeau visits Alberta pipeline site, says national unity is not under threat

EDMONTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is dismissing claims by conservative politicians that national unity is under threat.

The Liberal leader says conservative politicians are playing petty politics, which is hurting people across the country.

“Conservative politicians are choosing to play a high degree of politics, including bringing up threats to national unity, which we categorically reject,” Trudeau said Friday.

Trudeau stopped to visit workers at Edmonton’s Trans Mountain pipeline terminal, which is the start of the line that carries Alberta oil to a terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

It has been almost a month since Trudeau gave a second go-ahead to expanding the pipeline, after the courts overturned his government’s original approval.

The Federal Court of Appeal ruled Ottawa hadn’t done a good enough job with environmental reviews of the project, or consulting with Indigenous groups. Other politicians called on Ottawa to appeal, but it followed the court’s decision with more consultations.

In Edmonton, Trudeau said that if it had appealed, the only people working on Trans Mountain this summer would be lawyers fighting in court.

He made no new announcements on the project other than to say that shovels would be in the ground “later this construction season.”

He also spent some time talking directly with workers at the terminal.

“The world has changed,” Trudeau said. “We’re not in a situation where a government can decide this is where we are laying down a railroad or a pipeline and it’s just going to happen.

“The processes we have to go through are more complicated now.”

Trudeau said that’s why the federal government moved forward with Bill C-69, an overhaul of federal environmental assessments for major construction projects, which has been become known as the anti-pipeline bill.

“All it does is say, ‘If you actually talk with Indigenous Peoples and if you think about environmental consequences, you are going to be able to move forward in a way that will survive any court challenges people bring forward.’ “

Trudeau then spoke with reporters.

“It’s important that the prime minister be here to remind Canadians that we do not have to pit one corner of the country against each other, that families here in Alberta want to see a cleaner, greener future for their kids at the same time as they need to keep putting food on their table,” he said.

“We are a government that understands both of those things.”

Alberta’s United Conservative Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday, at the closing of the annual premiers’ conference in Saskatoon, that his province is frustrated with the federal government and other jurisdictions because it can’t get its resources to market.

The Trans Mountain project has been met with court challenges in B.C., while Quebec is firmly opposed to moving oil through its jurisdiction.

“The level of frustration and alienation that exists in Alberta right now towards Ottawa and the federation is, I believe, at its highest level, certainly in our country’s modern history,” Kenney told a news conference.

He said he doesn’t think Albertans really want to separate — they just want fairness, as their province contributes billions of dollars to the national economy.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who chaired the premiers’ meeting, has also said Ottawa’s energy policies, like Bill C-69 and its carbon tax, are a threat to national unity.

Following his morning stop in Edmonton, Trudeau travelled to Calgary and he mingled with people eating lunch at a downtown diner alongside Liberal Calgary Centre MP Kent Hehr.

He had private meetings planned for the rest of the day, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

On Saturday, Trudeau is scheduled to attend a Stampede reception for Liberal Party donors.

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