Trudeau is Alberta-bound to meet Notley in early February
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is coming to Alberta for the first time since last fall’s election, with the visit taking place against a backdrop of rising unemployment in the province and the future of energy pipelines up in the air.
Trudeau’s press secretary, Cameron Ahmad, said Wednesday the prime minister will meet with Premier Rachel Notley on Feb. 3. He had no details on the agenda or where the meeting will take place.
The premier’s spokeswoman, Cheryl Oates, said discussions are ongoing, but it’s possible Trudeau and Notley could meet in both Calgary and Edmonton.
“We have a lot of shared priorities, including finding ways and initiatives that we can spur the economy and help people through the challenging times,” said Oates.
“So it’s nice that he’d come out here in person and have the opportunity to talk about that.”
The Alberta visit comes in the midst of a heated national debate over pipeline projects intended to ship Alberta oilsands crude to coastal waters, as well as mounting concerns over the province’s employment outlook.
Alberta’s economy and its government finances have been battered by plunging oil prices that have dropped below US$30 a barrel in recent weeks. On Tuesday, Statistics Canada reported the province lost more jobs last year — almost 20,000 — than in any year since the 1982 recession, while the unemployment rate has risen to seven per cent.
Trudeau has come under fierce attack from the Opposition Conservatives in the House of Commons this week, with interim Tory Leader Rona Ambrose accusing him of abandoning Alberta and ignoring its issues.
“Many Albertans do not know where the next paycheque will come from. They are worried about how they will put food on the table or a roof over their heads,” Ambrose said Wednesday.
“The Canadian government is very preoccupied with the fate of Albertans and the fact that there are massive layoffs and they need support,” the prime minister replied. “We are looking to partner with Alberta and with municipalities across the country facing very real challenges.”
With files from Chris Varcoe, Calgary Herald