Trudeau pushes back at Tories on pipeline criticism

Says Conservatives had years to build them but couldn’t get it done.

SASKATOON — Justin Trudeau is pushing back at the federal Conservatives who are criticizing his position on pipelines ahead of the prime minister’s meeting with one of his sharpest critics on the file.

Confronted in Saskatchewan, where low energy prices are battering the province’s economy and have Premier Brad Wall’s government in the red, Justin Trudeau repeated his often-used line that the Conservatives had years to build a pipeline while in government and couldn’t get it done.

Trudeau said getting resources to market is a key responsibility of the federal government and the best way to get a pipeline built is to co-operate with communities and First Nations along the route and to respect their concerns.

“I have been crystal clear for years now on pipelines. One of the fundamental responsibilities of any Canadian prime minister – and this goes back centuries, from grain on railroads to fish and fur – is to get Canadian resources to international markets,” Trudeau said.

“But what the Conservatives still refuse to understand is that in order to get our resources to market in the 21st century, we have to be responsible around the environment. We have to respect concerns that communities have and we have to build partnerships with indigenous peoples.”

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose was also in Saskatchewan this week where she accused Trudeau of waffling on support for pipelines since last year’s federal election. She says the pipeline approval process is vague and creates too much uncertainty in the oil industry, which translates into more job losses.

Wall has been one of the prime minister’s loudest critics on pipelines and was to meet with Trudeau in Saskatoon.

The premier has said he wants to talk about pipelines during the meeting as well as push for expanded employment insurance benefits.

Wall has praised extensions to EI coverage in 12 areas hit hard by the resource downturn, including northern Saskatchewan. But he’s also said Ottawa made a mistake when it didn’t include workers in southern Saskatchewan’s oil-producing regions.

The federal budget added five weeks to the regular 45 weeks of EI benefits, effective in July and retroactive to January 2015. Long-tenured workers will also be eligible for an extra 20 weeks of benefits to a maximum of 70 weeks.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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