Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said he offered Prime Minister Justin Trudeau some “friendly advice” today on how to deal with mounting frustration in the West, noting the federal election exposed deep regional rifts in the country.
The two leaders met in Ottawa to discuss a range of issues, including climate change, health care and supports for Indigenous people.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Pallister was asked if he gave Trudeau any tips on addressing mounting anger in the West.
“Friendly advice, I would say, on getting some things done. Clearly there’s some great frustration with the lack of progress, not just on pipelines, but on other things,” he said, citing persistent gaps in flood protection measures in his province and others.
Pallister said the Liberal Party set up a “spat” over the carbon tax during the election, creating a divisive debate instead of a solutions-focused discussion.
“Fighting climate change is a unifying project. A political leader can divide, a prime minister should unite,” he said. “So as we move forward we should unite around fighting climate change and we should not be caught up in a subset of a subset. Carbon tax is not the only way (to deal with climate change).”
Climate change battle
Climate change emerged as a key battlefront during the campaign, with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer promising to scrap the federal carbon tax and Trudeau accusing his chief rival of offering no plan to tackle the climate crisis.
On election night, the Liberals were shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan — a reflection of growing dissatisfaction in the region with the government’s carbon tax and progress on pipelines.
Pallister said it’s time for political leaders to unite and focus on solving the problems in Western Canada and elsewhere.
“I think there are many messages that could be taken from the federal election, but definitely one of them is that this is a country that is divided on a number of key issues right now. So unification efforts and a willingness to change one’s approaches are important things,” he said.
Liberal chief whip Mark Holland said there is a “collective responsibility” to address western anxieties and said the government will be reaching out to traditional adversaries to ensure western voices are being heard.
“Canadians were very deliberate in choosing a minority government,” he said in an interview with CBC Radio’s The House, which is airing Saturday. “They want us to work together. They don’t want to have a war between regions. They want each party to come to Parliament and get the job of governing the nation done.”
Ralph Goodale, a long-time MP and cabinet minister who was defeated on Oct. 21, agreed that the government must work to reassure worried westerners.
“The more critical thing is the substantive issue of understanding, clearly and deeply, what the issues were and are that are deepest concerns to western Canadians, and to make sure those issues are addressed in a conscientious way that builds Canadian unity,” he said before a meeting of defeated, elected and re-elected Liberals held in Ottawa Thursday.