Montreal

New Liberal candidate Steven Guilbeault wrestles with party's pipeline policies

The high-profile environmentalist has been firmly opposed to pipelines, but said Wednesday he sees the Liberal Party as the best chance to "move to the next level" in the fight against climate change.

Prime minister's introduction of environmentalist interrupted by an environmentalist

Justin Trudeau officially introduced Steven Guilbeault as the Liberal Party of Canada's in the Montreal riding of Laurier-Sainte-Marie. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Not long after Steven Guilbeault was introduced as an official Liberal candidate in Laurier-Sainte-Marie, he found himself on the other side of the politician-activist divide when protesters interrupted the proceedings.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in the midst of talking up his new candidate when he was interrupted successively by four protesters: three pro-Palestinians and one who spoke out against the Trans-Mountain Pipeline.

"It's horrible for the climate," the protester proclaimed. "It's like putting millions more cars on the road."

Trudeau let his critics speak, a move that earned him applause from the room before he gave the floor to Guilbeault.

The pipeline approval is tricky terrain for Guilbeault to walk. The high-profile environmentalist has been firmly opposed to pipelines, but said Wednesday he sees the need to be pragmatic.

"I have colleagues and friends in other parties, but can anyone tell me with a straight face that they think that these parties have a chance of forming the next government? I don't think so," Guilbeault told reporters. "There's one party that can move us to the next level, and continue our fight against climate change, and it's the Liberal Party of Canada."

As he has noted before, Guilbeault said he wanted to help the Liberals do more and better in the fight against climate change, repeating that the party has done a lot for the environment in the last four years while the Conservatives have left a desert behind them in terms of environmental legislation.

He reconfirmed his opposition to the Trans Mountain Pipeline, but said it was the only example of a decision the government disagreed with. He said he would rely on advice from his son, a sports fan, when he did disagree with Liberal policy.

"From now on, when I have disagreements with my party, I will have them in the locker room with the rest of the team's players," he said.

Guilbeault reiterated that there was no discussion with Trudeau about the possibility of him getting the position of Minister of the Environment.

Political analyst Philippe J. Fournier sees Guilbeault's candidacy as an attempt to court environmentally-minded voters. Although Fournier says the environment will play a bigger role in this election, he said Guilbeault isn't a sure thing.

"In my whole lifetime, the Liberals never had Laurier-Sainte-Marie," Fournier said. "And so that would be a net gain for the Liberals, and of course you could expect Mr. Guilbeault to have a major role in his new government, should, of course, he win."

The race in Laurier-Sainte-Marie could be hotly contested. Hélène Laverdière won it for the NDP during the 2011 Orange Wave, knocking off then-Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe in the process. 

Laverdière beat Duceppe again in 2015. Last year, she joined a long list of current NDP MPs who said they won't be running in the October campaign.

Nima Machouf, a public health epidemiologist, will try to keep the riding in the NDP's hands.

With files from the CBC's Matt D'Amours and Radio-Canada

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