Kitchener-Waterloo

Trudeau defends stance on climate change at Cambridge, Ont., town hall

More than 1,300 people attended a town hall with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Cambridge, Ont., Tuesday night.

More than 1,300 people attended the wide-ranging Q & A with the prime minister

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question at a town hall in Cambridge, Ont., on Tuesday night. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

Climate change and the federal carbon tax dominated the discussion at a town hall with Justin Trudeau in Cambridge, Ont., Tuesday night.

More than 1,300 people from across Waterloo region gathered in the gymnasium at St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School to hear the prime minister answer questions on a wide range of issues.

The environment was a popular and contentious topic throughout the evening.

Trudeau defended his government's decision to purchase and expand the Trans Mountain pipeline in the face of climate change, noting that Canada's economy is still reliant on fossil fuels.

"We're not going to be able to eliminate oil and gas any time soon," he said.

"Yes we're investing in renewables, we're investing in wind, we're investing in solar. We're looking at all sorts of different alternatives. But for the foreseeable future, we will continue to require oil and gas."

While the prime minister faced backlash from some people in the crowd who were dissatisfied with his response, others took the opportunity to criticize the federal carbon tax.

One audience member described the tax as a "penalty" that will raise costs and drive jobs out of the country.

Trudeau faced criticism for his government's decision to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline, as well as the federal carbon tax. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

Trudeau noted throughout the evening that climate change has become an incredibly polarizing and political issue in Canada.

"There are people who are incredibly angry that we're not doing way more to fight against climate change, and there are people incredibly angry that we're doing anything to fight against climate change," he said.

In addition to the environment, Trudeau also fielded questions about the opioid crisis, education, universal pharmacare, immigration and Canada's role in responding to human rights abuses in other countries.

The upcoming federal election was also top of mind, with the prime minister vowing to stay focused on the issues and avoid personal attacks.

"There will be sharp differences ... when it comes to policy," he said. "But I will not make personal attacks and I will not use anger, division and fear because Canadians are better than that."

The town hall was one of several events in Waterloo region for Trudeau. Earlier on Tuesday, he announced a $52 million investment in an "innovation network" between Waterloo, Toronto and Ottawa.

The prime minister is expected to meet with local mayors and politicians on Wednesday.

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