Rowdy crowd of anti-pipeline hecklers take on Trudeau at B.C. town hall
PM greeted with mix of cheers and boos in Nanaimo, talks tough on NAFTA
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered a spirited defence of his decision to approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline during the final — and at times rowdy — town hall meeting of his cross-country tour today in Nanaimo, B.C.
The prime minister was greeted by a chorus of boos — and slightly louder cheers of welcome — as he walked into the room.
But his defence of Kinder Morgan began when an elderly woman asked Trudeau to "please, please, please" stop the pipeline expansion from bringing more oil from Alberta to the B.C. coast.
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As Trudeau attempted to defend his ideas about protecting the environment while growing the economy, he was shouted down by a number of activists. Three of them had to be removed by police after the local First Nation chief and Trudeau failed to talk them down.
Nearly 30 minutes after the question was asked, Trudeau was finally able to answer.
"We wanted a national carbon reduction plan, a national emissions plan that is going to allow us to reach our climate goals, to reach our Paris [climate accord] commitments.
"But in order to do that, part of moving forward is approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline," Trudeau said. "It is something many people feel very strongly about on either side, but that is the nature of the compromise we had to make in the best interests of Canada."
Trudeau was also forced to address a man sitting in the second row who persistently interrupted him during his introduction with shouts of "liar" and "you talk too much."
Trudeau eventually asked the crowd for a show of hands on whether the man should get to ask a question. They voted no.
"The crowd has spoken," Trudeau said. He was subsequently removed by police.
Tough talk on NAFTA
Trudeau also was asked about the NAFTA negotiations and potential changes to the trade deal, which provided an opening for some talk tough.
"Canada is willing to walk away from NAFTA if the United States proposes a bad deal," Trudeau said. "We will not be pushed around.
"At the same time, we have to remain confident about NAFTA because, regardless of perceptions in the United States, NAFTA has been really good for the U.S. and good for workers, it's been good for Canada and cancelling it would be extremely harmful and disruptive to people in the United States, as it would be in Canada."
Trudeau said Canada would continue to negotiate with the U.S. and Mexico "in good faith" and hopes to strike a deal that's good for all three nations.
Reproductive rights, summer jobs
Trudeau was also asked about the government's requirement, under the Canada Summer Jobs program, for applicants to affirm their organization will respect the values set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — including reproductive rights.
A woman noted that Trudeau's father, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, had introduced the charter, in part, to protect religious freedoms. She suggested the application was undermining that freedom.
"Will you honour your father's legacy by removing that offensive clause from the Canada Summer Jobs application form?" she asked.
Trudeau answered that his father had also loosened Canada's divorce laws despite not personally believing in divorce or remarriage.
He recalled a conversation after his mother had divorced his father and remarried. The elder Trudeau apologized to his son for being unable to provide his children with a mother figure because he would never remarry.
"That view caused me to reflect on the fact that, years before, he moved forward with a piece of legislation that was fair and right for Canada, that his own personal faith didn't align with, or allow for on a personal level."
Trudeau added that, as a Catholic, he has spoken with the Cardinal of Quebec City about the summer jobs issue and others.
"How do I reconcile my own faith, my own conscience, my own beliefs with my duty and my responsibility as a leader protecting society and protecting everyone's rights?" he asked.
Trudeau said it came down to striking a balance between freedom of conscience with the rights of a woman to control her own reproductive choices.
Trudeau's town hall tour has seen him host events in the Halifax suburb of Lower Sackville, N.S., as well as London, Ont., Hamilton, Quebec City, Winnipeg and Edmonton.
At each, Canadians took the microphone to ask for help with issues they were personally having with various levels of government and, in each case, Trudeau said he would take details and have someone look into their plight. The same was true in Nanaimo.
An elderly man asked about a tax change — to the principal residence exemption — that effectively makes it more expensive for him to house his mentally disabled son in a separate dwelling. Trudeau thanked the man for sharing his story, saying that he was glad to hear about "unintended consequences" that were not foreseen when the law was changed.
Another woman asked about a friend of hers, who was both a student and a single parent, saying she was finding it nearly impossible to survive and build a better life for themselves and their child.
Trudeau asked the woman if her friend was getting the Canada Child Benefit. When the woman said she did not think so, the prime minister told her that was the first step.
The prime minister told both questioners he would have staff collect personal details from them and would have them follow up to see what he could do to improve their situations.
Watch the full town hall in the player below: