Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says his advice to premiers warring with Ottawa over energy and environmental policy is to “get over yourselves" and focus on policy files such as infrastructure and transit, where the two orders of government can agree and work together.
The Alberta government quickly shot down the criticism. "We are not surprised by the ignorant comments from the former NDP MP,” said Christine Myatt, a spokesperson for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
Mr. Stewart spoke with reporters after a brief meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on Thursday morning, part of a growing list of face-to-face chats that Mr. Trudeau is holding with Western politicians. The meetings were sparked by the fractures revealed in last month’s election, in which the Liberals were shut out of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Voters left the Liberals in power, but under a minority government. The election result, however, angered some people in Alberta and Saskatchewan who view Mr. Trudeau’s climate-change policies as a direct attack on their economy and livelihood. Ottawa, though, is adamant that it can both tackle climate change and support the oil and gas sector.
In the face of Mr. Trudeau’s promise to redouble his efforts to tackle climate change, some groups in the two provinces have pushed the idea of separating from Canada. Meanwhile, Mr. Kenney has advocated for more provincial independence, and his counterpart in Saskatchewan, Scott Moe, has repeated calls for Ottawa to cancel its environmental-assessment overhaul and shelve the carbon tax.
Mr. Stewart, who said that he and Mr. Trudeau strongly disagree on the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, said harping on differences between Ottawa and other levels of government won’t get them anywhere. He said that he didn’t raise Trans Mountain with Mr. Trudeau and instead talked about transit, housing and the opioid crisis.
“Get over yourselves, get down to work, help your residents, get stuff built," Mr. Stewart said.
He added that Mr. Kenney will likely need to set aside his differences with the Prime Minister in order to get jointly funded infrastructure projects moving.
Mr. Kenney responded to the mayor’s comments in a question-and-answer video posted to Facebook on Thursday afternoon. He said Albertans don’t need to be lectured by politicians from other parts of the country who should instead be grateful for Alberta’s wealth.
“We don’t need to get over ourselves,” Mr. Kenney said. “We need political leaders in other parts of the country who actually respect the role that Albertans and Saskatchewan folks have played in building Canadian prosperity.”
A spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Premier said his office isn’t interested in debating the mayor of Vancouver. However, Jim Billington said Mr. Moe will continue to raise his province’s concerns with Ottawa.
Mr. Stewart also took umbrage with his province being lumped into the narrative of Western alienation, adding that he thinks B.C. is being “hijacked” by Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Talk about Alberta leaving Confederation, termed Wexit, is “idiotic," Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Thursday after his own meeting with Mr. Trudeau. But he added that the sentiment behind the separation push is “rooted in something very real" and “not a blind anger.”
A key concern for many provinces in Canada is the new environmental-assessment law, which Mr. Kenney has dubbed the “no more pipelines act.” Mr. Nenshi said he’s worried that the Liberals are replacing one broken regime with another faulty one.
The Liberal government is adamant that the new law, C-69, will allow for a more streamlined vetting of major infrastructure projects, but is open to advice on how the bill is implemented. The Prime Minister’s Office again said it will not reopen the bill, after Mr. Trudeau’s Prairie adviser, Jim Carr, said the government is open to “looking at the legislation.”
Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, a B.C. MP who was promoted in Wednesday’s cabinet shuffle, told reporters on Thursday that the Impact Assessment Act is enabling legislation and the policies and regulations that are put in place will dictate how it works in practice.
Saskatchewan’s government said it’s encouraged that Ottawa is willing to work with the provinces to address concerns with C-69 as well as a new law banning tanker traffic off the north coast of B.C.
Mr. Trudeau’s meetings with political leaders from across Canada will continue Friday with a visit from Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
With reports from Laura Stone in Toronto and James Keller in Calgary