'Hostile situation': Trudeau faces frustrated Conservative leaders as he preps for Dec. 5 return of Parliament
Scheer, western premiers urge Liberals to take immediate steps to boost oil economy
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing growing pressure from conservative political leaders who are urging him to take swift steps to address economic uncertainty and alienation in the West.
Earlier today, Trudeau sat down with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to discuss possible areas of common ground between Liberals and Conservatives prior to the opening of the new session of Parliament on Dec. 5.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Scheer said dealing with frustration and fear in the West is a key priority.
"I spoke to the prime minister about the very real crisis that our country is in as it relates to national unity," he said, noting that he urged Trudeau to produce a "roadmap" for completing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project to address economic uncertainty in the region.
The meeting was the first time the two leaders have met face-to-face since an acrimonious 40-day election campaign. It lasted less than 30 minutes.
The Liberals were shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan on election night. Two key cabinet ministers, Ralph Goodale and Amarjeet Sohi, were among those defeated.
Trudeau was reduced to a minority government on Oct. 21, requiring him to win support from opposition MPs to pass legislation and retain the confidence of the House of Commons.
In a photo opportunity with the two leaders before the meeting began in Ottawa, Trudeau said his priorities are addressing the cost of living, growing the middle class and fighting climate change.
"Last month, Canadians elected a Parliament that they expect to work together and that's exactly what I'm going to be focusing on doing," he said.
Tax cuts, maternity benefits, transit
Scheer said he also cited parts of his party's platform he believes should be implemented, and pointed to tax cuts, enhanced maternity and paternal benefits, and support for a major Toronto transit expansion project as some areas of common ground between Liberals and Conservatives.
"It's up to him to decide what to do with it," he said of Trudeau.
The prime minister likely will find a more willing ally in NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who shares Trudeau's commitment to fighting climate change, expanding affordable housing and creating a national pharmacare program. Those two leaders are scheduled to meet Thursday.
On Dec. 5, MPs will elect the Speaker of the House of Commons, followed by a throne speech to be delivered by Gov. Gen. Julie Payette.
Scheer had been pressing for Parliament to return Nov. 25, but Trudeau said the later date was chosen because it falls after the NATO summit Dec. 3-4 in London. Scheer's office has said the Conservatives will push for a plan to address growing divisions in the country, cost of living concerns and the economic downturn in the energy sector.
Speaking today about the challenges facing his province, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney called the re-election of a federal Liberal government a "hostile situation."
"There is a federal government that just ran a campaign against Alberta, against our largest job-creating industry, that will be supported by opposition parties who are committed to shutting down the energy industry that produces so much of Alberta's wealth and jobs," he said.
Trudeau also met today with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe in Ottawa. Moe said he came in "good faith" because, after the prime minister said on election night that he understands the mounting frustration in the West, he hoped to hear Trudeau say he plans to govern differently.
"Disappointingly, after this meeting here today, what I do see is we are going to see more of the same from this prime minister," he said. "We had provided some options for him to support the people of the province and today I did not hear a commitment to moving forward on those items."
Moe had proposed a "pause" on the implementation of the federal carbon tax in Saskatchewan — to give the province time to demonstrate results from its own climate change plan — and a reformed equalization system. He also sought a federal commitment to creating pipeline access beyond the Trans Mountain expansion.
Moe also said the province will begin to "broaden (its) ambitions" and step up its outreach efforts with trading partners around the world.
"We're going to broaden our footprint, if you will – and I'll have more to say on this in the coming days – to make sure Saskatchewan is represented around the world with the countries we are doing trade with," he said.
"We are also going to look at opportunities that we have to expand our provincial autonomy."
The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement late Tuesday that Trudeau highlighted to Moe other energy projects his government has supported. Those included the Keystone XL, Line 3, LNG Canada and the Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Line.
"Taken together, these projects demonstrate Ottawa's support of Canada's energy industry," the statement said.
He also suggested that Moe, in his capacity as chair of the Council of the Federation, work with the rest of the premiers to gain consensus on changes to the equalization formula.
"The prime minister reminded Premier Moe that the current Equalization formula is the same one that the previous federal government put in place with support of the federal cabinet ministers of the day," Trudeau's office said.
In a photo session before meeting with Moe, Trudeau acknowledged there are areas where the two leaders are in disagreement but insisted they can still work together to do "great things" to strengthen the country.
"Canada does well when Saskatchewan does well," Trudeau said.
Moe agreed, saying that his province has been an "outsize contributor" to Canada's success in recent past.
"The strength of our nation is the sum of the strength of all our provinces," Moe said.
The prime minister has confirmed he will swear in his new cabinet Nov. 20.
With files from The Canadian Press