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Alberta Trudeau uses whistle-stop Calgary visit to urge caution in energy debate

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stopped briefly in Calgary during the closing weekend of the Stampede and flipped pancakes in a city deeply skeptical of the Liberal government’s commitment to oil and gas.

Saturday’s whistle-stop tour, with appearances at a community breakfast and a party fundraiser, was in stark contrast to Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s visit last week, where the head of the official Opposition received a warm reception over two days of events including a tour of the Stampede grounds.

Mr. Trudeau also found himself increasingly at odds with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. During a stop in Edmonton on Friday, the Prime Minister said conservative leaders like Mr. Kenney have been playing petty politics by saying there is a national-unity crisis.

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Part of the disagreement stems from the federal government’s decision to impose a carbon tax on provinces like Alberta that have decided against implementing the tax by themselves.

Mr. Trudeau wore a white cowboy hat and huge belt buckle during his trip, but did not visit the Stampede grounds, the mix of rodeo and fairgrounds that dominate Calgary’s summer schedule. The Prime Minister instead used the opportunity to call on Canadians to avoid the extremes of the energy debate and seek compromise.

He reiterated that construction will begin this summer on the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline: The project known as TMX is owned by the federal government.

“There will be extreme voices on either side choosing to attack us for one half of that equation and ignoring the other part of the equation. The people who are angry about the carbon price do not spend any time saying: ‘Thank you for the TMX, by the way.’ The people who are angry about TMX don’t spend any time saying: ‘Well thank you for putting a price on pollution and protecting our oceans.’ Those are the voices on the fringes,” Mr. Trudeau told about 75 people at a Liberal Party fundraiser in downtown Calgary.

A handful of protesters outside the venue wore yellow vests and carried placards decrying Mr. Trudeau as “a traitor.”

A crowd of hundreds lined up for pancakes at a stampede breakfast west of downtown Calgary earlier in the day. Many in the crowd were polite but grumbling when they saw the Prime Minister, who posed for photographs.

“I don’t like him all that much and I don’t think many in Calgary support him. I didn’t want a picture with him. I just think he’s been really bad for Alberta,” said Holly Jordin, who was there with her sister.

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Along with a friend who posed for a selfie with Mr. Trudeau, Duke Sherman said he was surprised the Prime Minister appeared in public in the city, which has not recovered from an oil-price collapse nearly five years ago. “People in Calgary say they really don’t like him on social media, but he’s turned out, so that’s got to mean something,” Mr. Sherman said.

The Liberals have only three seats in Alberta – two in Edmonton and one in downtown Calgary. The Conservatives hold 29 of the province’s 34 seats.

The quick visit doesn’t compare to Mr. Trudeau’s more significant stops in 2015, when he was running to defeat then-prime minister Stephen Harper, according to Duane Bratt, a professor in the department of policy studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

“It was a perfunctory trip. He didn’t come out for Stampede. In years past, he made a bigger splash, with bigger crowds and more excitement. Things haven’t gone well for him in this city over the past two years and his [past] Stampede experience is a metaphor for that,” he said.

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