​‘Extraordinary opportunity’ for Canada if U.S. steps back from climate plans: Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Canadian premiers at the first ministers meeting in Ottawa on December 9, 2016. Image: Flickr/Justin Trudeau

If the United States wants to step back from its climate plans under President Donald Trump, Canada ought to look at that as an “extraordinary opportunity” for the country to draw in investors, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Calgary on Wednesday.

During a question-and-answer session with Arlene Dickinson, chief executive officer of Venture Communications following a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, she asked whether Trudeau’s government is still committed to its carbon plan even though there are indications the incoming Trump administration may roll back some of the Obama administration’s climate change initiatives.

In response, the prime minister said that while the U.S. is an extraordinary partner and ally and trading partner, it is also a competitor in many ways.

“The challenge with climate change … is it’s a fact, it’s a reality we have to adjust to and it’s a reality regardless of what might or might not happen at the federal level in the coming years,” he said.

“At the state level, the municipal level, at the business level across the United States there is a tremendous investment initiative for movement on fighting climate change.

“We know that this is the way the world is going. There may be short term benefits by not engaging in the environment as strongly but we also know that in the medium term and the long term, the jobs of the future, the opportunities for economic growth, the well-being of citizens of future generations is going to be linked to figuring out better and smarter ways to do things.”

Canadians, Trudeau suggested, “are extraordinarily well placed to be in the forefront of figuring out how to do things in better, smarter and more efficient ways to develop new clean energy solutions” and many Calgary companies are already leading the way.

“If the United States wants to step back, quite frankly we ought to look at that as an extraordinary opportunity for Canada and Canadians — an opportunity to draw in investors who are focused on where profits and opportunities are going to be 10 years from now, 20 years from now and people who want to do the right thing for their kids and grandkids,” he said.

“I am very confident that Canada will continue to be an extraordinary place to invest, to grow, to build and to create solutions for the future and I know that Alberta will be in the very centre of that.”

Asked about TransCanada Corporation’s proposed Keystone XL project, Trudeau said he would work with the new United States administration of President Trump when it gets sworn in. He noted that the president-elect in a phone call with the Canadian leader just after the election had raised the topic and had indicated he was very supportive of it. “I am confident the right decisions will be made.”

Trudeau also noted he has always supported Keystone XL because he believes pipelines are cheaper, better for the environment and safer than moving crude oil by rail.