Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended moving a federal immigrant and refugee processing centre from Vegreville, Alta., to Edmonton during an appearance at Edmonton’s Telus World of Science on Saturday, as a small crowd of protesters gathered outside.
The prime minister was at the science centre to promote his government’s Canada Child Benefit, but faced questions from reporters about how his government justifies moving the Alberta town’s major employer.
As around 20 demonstrators stood outside protesting the move, Trudeau stood by his government’s decision to relocate the centre to Edmonton in 2018.
“This is something we need to do to ensure the continued high quality of services that Canadians expect from their government,” Trudeau said.
“We understand that this transition will be difficult for many families, which is why we’re working closely with the community. This is something we take very seriously, but we are moving forward in a way that works with the community to minimize the impacts of this transition, which we know is difficult.”
Trudeau’s stop at the Telus World of Science is part of the prime minister’s quick trip to Seattle, Vancouver and Edmonton.
He took his appearance in Edmonton as an opportunity to discuss the Canada Child Benefit, saying the system — which went into effect last July — helps parents who need it most.
“No more child benefit cheques going to millionaires. Now, we give the most help to the families who need it,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau questioned on carbon tax, NEB
Standing in front of parents with their children and stacks of colourful building blocks, Trudeau was also asked about his government’s demand that all provinces put a price on carbon by 2018. Alberta Progressive Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney campaigned on a proposal to eliminate Alberta’s newly implemented carbon tax.
Trudeau defended his government’s plans, saying putting a price on carbon pollution is something “everyone can understand” because it targets pollution and reduces the risk of global warming.
“We’re making it more expensive for things that we don’t want and making it rewarding for people to choose lower carbon behaviours,” he said.
“Whether it’s investing in greater renewables, as Alberta is already doing, the industry here is a leader in various ways and approaches to more renewable energy and green energy.
“To demonstrate that we understand that the world is moving towards a lower carbon economy and therefore the opportunity to innovate, to create good jobs and to lead the way is what Canadians should be doing.”
‘The centres of expertise around energy are here in Alberta.’
-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Trudeau also reiterated his government’s support for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, saying it’s a decision that will create economic growth for Alberta and across the country while protecting the environment.
Asked about a report calling for an overhaul of the National Energy Board (NEB), including moving its leadership from Calgary to Ottawa, Trudeau would not confirm that is a move that could happen.
“We note the recommendations that the report holds, but … we are very aware this is where the expertise and energy is,” Trudeau said.
“We recognize that for Canadians to have confidence in an important regulator like the National Energy Board, people have to know that the level of expertise on that board is top notch. Of course the level of expertise and energy is concentrated here in Alberta.”
Asked about the lagging progress of the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Trudeau acknowledged knowing there were challenges with the commission, but said the government is continuing to work with the commissioners to ensure the inquiry abides by a timeline.
“We are trusting the commissioners to do the work that we laid out that they need to do,” he said.
Trip to West Coast, Edmonton
Trudeau spent Wednesday in Seattle, promoting Canada’s growing technology industry to major multinational companies, and joined top business leaders inside the closed-door Microsoft CEO Summit.
He also stopped by a studio owned by Electronic Arts Canada in the Vancouver area, where he showcased a new virtual camera used by video game designers.
During an event in Surrey, B.C., on Friday, Trudeau reiterated his support for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
When asked about the possibility that B.C. could wind up with a government that opposes the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, he suggested that the province’s NDP and Greens, who oppose the project, are “wrong” in their thinking.
“Canadians understand that we need to both protect the environment and build a better economy at the same time. Anyone proposing a false choice around that is wrong,” he said.