Alberta Premier Danielle Smith met face to face with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday in a photo opportunity punctuated by short statements and a very awkward handshake.
Ms. Smith and Mr. Trudeau met briefly to discuss shared aspirations and concerns over pending federal legislation, dubbed Just Transition, aimed at helping Canadian workers adapt to the global move to increasing reliance on renewable energy.
The short meeting began with Mr. Trudeau reaching down to shake hands, with Ms. Smith offering a hesitant palm down hand in return, prompting Mr. Trudeau to take it and hold it in place with his thumb on top as she delivered a hint of a smile, and he grinned broadly while the cameras clicked and whirred.
Ms. Smith, in Ottawa with other premiers for talks on health care funding, faces an election this spring after successfully harnessing party anger with Mr. Trudeau to win the United Conservative Party leadership race to become premier.
She has disparaged Mr. Trudeau’s government as not a true national government and passed controversial legislation granting her government power to direct provincial agencies to ignore federal laws.
She has accused his government of imposing discriminatory policy decisions and legislation on non-renewable resource development that she says is frustrating Alberta’s energy sector.
She has accused Mr. Trudeau of trying to decimate Alberta’s oil and gas industry with the Just Transition legislation, but now says she wants to at least try to work collaboratively.
“With any luck, we’ll find some common ground on some of those issues today, because I think it’s going to be important for all of Alberta and for all Canada that we need to find common ground,” said Ms. Smith.
“The [promised federal] Just Transition legislation gives the impression that the energy sector is going to be phased out. It’s not going to be phased out.”
“We’re transforming away from high-intensity emissions to lower emissions, and I think we have some shared priorities on that.”
Ms. Smith said she’s also concerned about the proposed emissions cap on oil and gas emissions.
“We’ve said very clearly that an aggressive emissions cap such as was initially proposed would really be a production cap because there isn’t a feasible way for us to achieve that within eight years.”
Mr. Trudeau nodded in agreement that the solution lies in collaboration.
– By Mia Rabson in Ottawa and Dean Bennett in Edmonton