SURREY, B.C. – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’ll work with British Columbia and Alberta to move ahead with his government’s agenda of creating jobs while transitioning toward a lower-carbon economy.
Trudeau was asked on Friday about the possibility that B.C. could wind up with a government that opposes the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. He suggested that the province’s NDP and Greens, who oppose the project, are “wrong” in their position.
“Canadians understand that we need to both protect the environment and build a better economy at the same time. Anyone proposing a false choice around that is wrong,” he said at an event in Surrey.
The final count from the recent provincial election, including absentee ballots, will be completed next week and the Greens are poised to hold the balance of power if a minority government is confirmed.
After general and advance votes were tallied May 9, the pro-pipeline Liberals held 43 seats, short of the 44 needed for a majority, while the NDP won 41 seats and the Greens took three. But there are a handful of ridings that were decided by fewer than 300 votes and there are 176,000 absentee ballots still to be counted.
NDP Leader John Horgan has vowed to use “every tool in the toolbox” to stop the Trans Mountain expansion, but he hasn’t been specific about what those tools are.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has said that no province has the power to stop Kinder Morgan Canada’s expansion of the pipeline that runs from the Edmonton area to Burnaby and which her government staunchly supports.
Trudeau did not directly answer a question about whether her statement was true, but he said he has a very positive relationship with the provinces and will work constructively with them.
The federal government approved the $7.4-billion expansion late last year, shortly after announcing a $1.5-billion ocean protection plan.
Alberta has obtained intervener status in court challenges of the project filed by municipalities and First Nations in southwest B.C.
Political scientist Richard Johnston of the University of British Columbia has said interprovincial pipelines fall under federal jurisdiction, so there is little that B.C. could do to stop the project.
Trudeau was at a Surrey recreation centre to promote his government’s Canada Child Benefit. He met with parents and played with a large rainbow parachute with a group of rambunctious children.
He then met with people at a Filipino restaurant in Surrey before visiting Abbotsford’s Gur Sikh Temple along with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.
The temple, founded in 1912, is the oldest Sikh place of worship in North America, Trudeau said after speaking a few words in Punjabi.
The prime minister told a large crowd gathered outside the temple that Canadians need to remember the 1914 Komagata Maru incident in order to avoid past mistakes. The ship carrying 376 people from Punjab was not allowed to dock in Vancouver’s harbour.
“They caught a glimpse of the Canadian dream and we turned them away,” he said. “Save for a few, the passengers were forced to turn around and go back to India. The consequences that awaited them there were tragic.”
Trudeau apologized for the incident in the House of Commons last year.
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