British Columbia

Justin Trudeau talks jobs, economy and pipeline expansion in Kamloops

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is back in B.C. on Wednesday, flying into Kamloops for a public town hall and fundraising lunch.

Trudeau says he’s confident about keeping the peace around the pipeline debate during visit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pictured at a town hall in Hamilton, Ont., last January. He is in Kamloops, B.C. on Wednesday. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is back in British Columbia on Wednesday, flying into Kamloops for a public town hall and fundraising lunch.

Trudeau spoke to CBC's Daybreak Kamloops before the day's events, saying he expects jobs and the economy to be at the forefront of the discussions. 

"That's one of first things we focused on as a government in terms of growing the economy and creating good jobs," he  told Shelley Joyce, host of CBC's Daybreak Kamloops.

"We've had good numbers in B.C. particularly, some of the lowest unemployment rates in history in B.C. right now, and across the country. But there are also people who continue to struggle."

Pipeline protests

One of the most contested topics in Kamloops currently is the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, with some adamantly supporting the pipeline because of the jobs it could create and others opposing it for environmental reasons. 

Trudeau said he's confident about keeping the peace around the pipeline debate.

"Most people understand that we need to both create good jobs for the future and protect our environment at the same time," he said.

"Getting those two things done together is a bit of careful navigating … and that's exactly what we're focused on."

RCMP officers approach the barricade at the Gidimt'en camp in northern B.C. Members of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation have been preventing company workers from getting through their checkpoints, asserting they can only pass if they have consent from hereditary leaders. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Trudeau said he's not happy with the police response to recent protests about an LNG pipeline project in northern B.C. RCMP moved in to remove protestors and have made a number of arrests.

"It's not an ideal situation," said Trudeau.

"A hundred years ago, if the government decided 'Well, the railway is going here,' nobody was consulted and the government could just do this. That's not how we do things anymore."

Elder Carmen Nikal speaks at a rally in Smithers, B.C., Tuesday. She was among 14 people arrested Monday at the Gidimt'en camp for defying an injunction. She was released overnight but the others were held in custody. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Trudeau said he isn't planning to visit the northern pipeline protest on this trip to B.C.

"One of the things that is really important is to try to reduce the temperature a little bit and sometimes engaging in that way is actually raising the political attention and the stakes," he said.

'Exercise in democracy' 

Trudeau's visit to Kamloops is part of his annual tour of town halls around the country during January, which he describes as an important exercise in democracy.

He emphasized that it's a chance for British Columbians to express their concerns, give feedback and share their opinions.

"It's an opportunity for Canadians to come out and ask questions to the Prime Minister  — there's no vetting, no entrance fee. Anyone who wants to show up can show up," he said.

Thompson Rivers University is hosting the town hall, which is open to the public, in the evening. 

Robert Hanlon, an assistant professor of political science at TRU, said he expects Trudeau's Kamloops visit to be heated.

"There are very divisive sides on resource extraction and other types of investment and how local people see the Liberal party, especially Trudeau," Hanlon said in an interview with CBC's The Early Edition. 

"But he does have support here ... it's going to be a very unique and interesting time to see how he handles it."

With files from Daybreak Kamloops