Skip to main content

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson shake hands prior to their private meeting in Vancouver, B.C., on Aug. 1, 2017.BEN NELMS/The Canadian Press

Housing, transit and the devastating opioid crisis were the main topics of conversation Tuesday between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, but talk of a controversial pipeline expansion was absent.

Speaking later outside City Hall, Mr. Robertson appeared unfazed that the Kinder Morgan pipeline wasn't on the agenda, even though he has described the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline project as a "big step backwards" for Canada's environment and economy.

"We didn't spend time talking about Kinder Morgan," Mr. Robertson told reporters, gesturing with his hand as if to brush the topic aside.

"The B.C. government is working on that, to some degree."

The province's previous Liberal government signed off on the pipeline before the May election.

The federal government had approved the project a few months earlier.

British Columbia's new government, under NDP Premier John Horgan, has pledged to use every tool at its disposal to block the $7.4-billion pipeline expansion that would see a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic in the waters off Vancouver.

Mr. Robertson said previously he was "profoundly disappointed" by the federal government's decision, but the change in the provincial government means the city can focus on other issues.

"It's great to have the alignment of the B.C. government now, that's what changed," said Mr. Robertson, who is a former New Democrat member of the legislative assembly.

He noted First Nations are fighting the pipeline expansion in court and financial markets may also have an impact on the completion of the project.

Speaking ahead of his meeting with Mr. Robertson, Mr. Trudeau commended the mayor for his work and said he looks forward to collaborating on issues that matter to Canadians.

"The federal government has stepped up for the first time in a long time in setting aside billions of dollars for housing," Mr. Trudeau said.

"We're going to work together to make sure that we're continuing to make a dent in the very real challenge of housing affordability here in the Lower Mainland."

Mr. Trudeau wasn't available for comment after the meeting.

Disagreement around the pipeline expansion won't sabotage discussion on other agenda items where the two politicians' values more closely align, Mr. Robertson said.

"We have a long history and friendship," he said of his relationship with Mr. Trudeau.

"We have our differences on some issues, but we are much more focused on where we can work together and where we can get things done."

One such issue is the opioid crisis, which Mr. Robertson said is "intensifying" across Canada.

Vancouver has been the centre of British Columbia's public-health emergency and more than 200 people have died in the city so far this year of illicit drug overdoses. British Columbia's toll for the end of May reached 640 deaths.

Mr. Robertson called on other provinces to share more data with cities around the number of opioid overdose deaths, and for public-health authorities to invest in treatment and education programs.

"The federal government has opened the door to ensuring that clean opioids are available, that they can be prescribed," he said.

"That would make a big difference, to have the provincial governments follow through and make sure that people can access clean drugs and they can access the addictions treatment that can save their lives."

Mr. Trudeau was in the British Columbia Interior on Monday to survey the damage caused by wildfires.

Almost 50,000 people were forced from their homes at the peak of the crisis.

The Prime Minister also spoke at a $1,000-a-plate Liberal fundraising dinner in Surrey on Monday, where he urged the crowd of about 250 people to donate to the Canadian Red Cross to help people displaced by wildfires.

Justin Trudeau thanked fire crews for fighting wildfires in British Columbia, and took a helicopter tour of some of the damage on Monday. The prime minister was asked why it took him over three weeks to visit the area.

The Canadian Press