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Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters following a speech at the Calgary Petroleum Club, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013.Bill Graveland/The Canadian Press

In a speech just a day before Conservatives descend on Calgary for their national convention, federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau attempted to shift attention to his party's energy policy, and make the case that his party isn't the bogeyman many in the West perceive it to be.

In a city that hasn't elected a Liberal MP since 1968, Mr. Trudeau implored the Calgary audience to "keep an open mind. You can find friends in the most unexpected of places."

Mr. Trudeau gave his speech Wednesday at the Calgary Petroleum Club, the exclusive wood-panelled domain for the oil-patch leaders for more than six decades. Speaking to a business audience that continues to wait anxiously to see whether the U.S. will approve the Keystone XL project, his remarks were focused not on the continuing Senate scandal but on his championing of the controversial pipeline.

Mr. Trudeau said the pipeline – which would transport Alberta oil-sands bitumen to lucrative markets on the Texas Gulf Coast – would have already been given the green light if Canada had stronger, more cohesive environmental policies, including tougher penalties for polluters and a means for pricing carbon.

"It is the absence of strong policy that makes us an easy target," Mr. Trudeau said, in reference to misgivings U.S. President Barack Obama has expressed about Canada's ability to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and criticism from environmental groups.

While talking to reporters after the speech, Mr. Trudeau did speak about the Conservative party convention and the Senate affair – saying he was troubled the business of government seems to have ground to a halt as the focus remains on the turmoil related to senators' expenses.

"Between avoiding talk about Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright, and blanket boosterism for the Europe trade deal – which is a good deal, but there are more issues on the table than that – there's not going to be much actual democracy going on this weekend," Mr. Trudeau said of the Conservative convention.

He emphasized that last week while in the U.S., he told an "audience of American liberals" he supports the Keystone XL pipeline project because it opens up markets for Canada's oil. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government have failed to generate positive momentum for the project, Mr. Trudeau said, partly due to the "demonization of people who care about the environment," a lack of substantive policy on climate change, and heavy-handed diplomacy on the issue that has annoyed the Obama administration.

Mr. Trudeau, who opposes another proposed pipeline – the Northern Gateway project from Alberta to the B.C. West Coast – received a warm reception from what was largely a friendly audience. But in Ottawa, federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Mr. Trudeau hasn't done anything to help win over Americans on Keystone, and noted in the years the Liberals governed, Canada saw significant growth in its greenhouse-gas emissions.

"So he has his facts wrong, and he should be ashamed of his record," Mr. Oliver said.

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