While anti-pipeline protesters sang and held inflatable whales outside, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talked of the need for Canadians to find common ground in fighting climate change.
“We’re in a time when populism and social media are amplifying those voices on the peripheries,” said Trudeau, speaking at a $100 to $300 a seat Liberal party fundraiser, held at the Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort hotel on Thursday night.
“Nobody has a sign saying make a decent compromise, find a reasonable way forward, get that right balance,” said Trudeau, to an audience that included former Victoria Liberal MP David Anderson, former Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca Liberal MP Keith Martin, and candidates running in the Oct. 21 federal election.
Trudeau, sitting on a stage answering scripted questions for about 30 minutes, said there are many people in total agreement with Liberal government’s protection of oceans, banning plastics, moving forward with partnerships with Indigenous Peoples to better protect coastlines, putting a price on pollution, and reaching targets for protecting marine areas.
“These things are all great,” said Trudeau. “But they can’t get over the fact that we had to buy a pipeline to get a decent price for our resources to pay for the transition we all need to go through because we are still all reliant on fossil fuels for the next few years at the very least, most likely the next few decades.
“On the flip side there are people very pleased we are buying a pipeline but can’t get past that we are putting a price on pollution,” Trudeau said of the government’s approval and purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and its carbon pricing on pollution.
“Those voices on either side of the spectrum are taking up a lot of oxygen in social media, in political discourse,” said Trudeau. “But the fact is the conversations I get to have with Canadians right across the country reassure me people get it.”
Trudeau said dealing with climate change can’t be a choice between the environment and the economy and that the only way to have a plan for the economy is to have a plan to fight climate change and protect the environment.
Part of the problem is that “every Canadian wants their kid to grow up in a cleaner greener world; they are just not sure that they have to do something about it yet because there’s still food to put on the table, there’s still mortgages to pay, there’s still the need to get to and from work in your vehicle.”
Even as the federal government took B.C.’s lead and put a price on pollution, “Conservative premiers have been elected from the Rockies to the Bay of Fundy who are actually campaigning on doing nothing, on doing less on fighting the environment,” said Trudeau, of premiers opposed to the federal government’s climate change strategy, including carbon pricing.
Canadians are conscious of having to save the environment but don’t have a great track record in stepping up to do so, said Trudeau.
“Not everyone gets to live on Vancouver Island where you have a green conscience that the rest of the country can learn from and needs to learn from.”
Trudeau quipped he was sort of flattered by the protesters holding inflatable whales outside “because I heard those same orcas were out there for [Green Party Leader] Elizabeth May’s wedding a few months ago.”
One of Canada’s greatest strengths is its diversity geographically, religiously, culturally and ethnically “but it also means diversity of perspectives — different points of views across the country.” Pulling the country together is the federal government’s job, said Trudeau.
“That means making concessions that some people will disagree with and taking steps others won’t be happy with but all aligned with a big picture of saying we are on a path that will create a better future for our kids and grandkids.”