Federal Laws at Heart of Western Anger up for Debate as Liberals Begin Outreach
OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau quickly backed up his pledge for more dialogue with the West, opening up his Thursday meeting with Calgarys mayor to the two members of his government now entrusted with being ambassadors to the region.
Manitoba MP Jim Carr, who was named Wednesday as Trudeaus special representative for the Prairies, and Chrystia Freeland, now deputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs, both sat in on the latest of Trudeaus meetings with provincial and municipal officials from Western Canada in the wake of last months election.
The Liberals lost all their seats in Saskatchewan and Alberta in October. They also dropped three seats in Manitoba.
Carr, who was previously the minister for trade diversification, was also to attend Thursdays first cabinet meeting, before embarking on his new task from Trudeau: making sure voices from the Prairies are heard in the capital.
“The message is we have to do a better job listening, communicating, sharing and developing a set of regional policies that fit into the strength of our federation and the objective is that there be a strong Western Canada in a united Canada and I think thats my mandate,” Carr said.
One existing policy, however, is at the heart of much of the wests anger: Bill C-69. Its a contentious piece of legislation overhauling the environmental assessment of major projects, which critics argue will further strangle natural resources development in red tape.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the group had a blunt conversation about the bill, but Trudeau did not promise anything specific.
“(Trudeau) said that he is interested in improving the system, and improving C-69,” he said.
“That means that I will continue to be a thorn in his side to make sure this thing works better.”
A statement from the Prime Ministers Office said Trudeau reaffirmed his commitment to work collaboratively with Nenshi to support Calgarys economic recovery.
The leaders also discussed progress on Trans Mountain expansion, where about 2,200 people have been hired to work on the project.
“The leaders discussed shared investments in infrastructure and agreed on the importance of moving forward on these projects to ensure the residents of Calgary and all of Alberta benefit from the economic growth and environmental protections that these projects promise,” Thursdays statement read.
Trudeaus discussions with Nenshi followed a meeting the prime minister had last week with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, where Trudeau first signalled his willingness to address the legislation.
But while Nenshi and others would like to see it amended, thats unlikely. The Liberals intend to try to tackle proposed changes via regulation and how the bills provisions are eventually implemented.
While Carr and Freeland will bear responsibility for collecting and forwarding feedback from the West, primary responsibility for the legislation falls to the new environment minister, Jonathan Wilkinson. He took over the portfolio in Wednesdays shuffle.
He said the meat of the law is policies and regulation.
“Weve always said were open to conversations with stakeholders across the country as to how thats going to be done in the most effective way,” he said. “Thats not a change.”
Nenshi said Trudeau seemed to understand the issues around western alienatRead More – Source