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PMJT: Conflicted in Calgary

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has some fences to mend in Calgary after remarking last week the oilsands should be phased out.

The Canadian Press

We all know what’s coming.

The biggest question is, will we get any real answers at all?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s town hall this evening at the University of Calgary will partly be one of damage control following his lamentable oilsands phase-out comments earlier this month.

No doubt many of the arms that extend for questions will demand clarification, and without a worthy response, be filled with indignation.

There should also be no doubt he’s wading into the den with eyes wide open.

Expect him to cite pipeline approvals and how the Alberta NDP climate policies were what made them possible. Expect the tired campaign rhetoric of building the economy while protecting the environment. Expect him to express his affection for the province as demonstrated in Alberta visits in recent years.

The platitudes are no doubt well arranged.

Here’s the thing: The comment spurning so much resentment isn’t inconsistent or unique. Last month, in an interview with Vancouver’s NEWS1130, he discussed how he’ll sell Trans Mountain to opposing British Columbians. He brought up the economy-environment synergy point, saying the party will “demonstrate true leadership in reducing our carbon emissions across the country and at the same time, ensuring we have the jobs through this transition off fossil fuels.”

The discussion even came up in the most impassioned moment of his tour: the tearful plea from single mother Kathy Katula in Peterborough, Ont., struggling to make ends meet in the face of rising Hydro costs. Overshadowed by the drama was this portion of his response: “We are in a time of transition right now. That the world is moving off of fossil fuels and that’s a good thing.” At least he humanely embraced Katula after politicizing her family’s difficult situation.

Now contrast this with his approving words regarding Trans Mountain’s green light and we find Prime Minister Trudeau in somewhat of a pipeline impasse.

Throughout the nationwide, taxpayer-funded tour, many Canadians have expressed their anti-oilsands position. Which makes tonight’s appearance all the more of a discomfort to Justin Trudeau. On one hand, he can’t skirt around explaining the pipeline approvals to some and can’t avoid the explanation of a so-called transition plan to others. So what does he say?

I think it’s simple: explain transition.

There’s even a starting point for him to build on since Stephen Harper agreed with G7 partners in 2015 for a no-carbon economy goal by 2100.

He can also echo his natural resources minister’s comments in December that unlawful protest of Trans Mountain will be met with appropriate enforcement, instead of his long-winded and pitiful non-answer when asked of the prospect on his last trip to Calgary.

He can counter the Conservative talking point that Trans Mountain will never come to fruition by ensuring the prospect of oilsands employment for decades and assuage an upset environmental base.

And if he can find a moment of embrace as he did with Katula, his relationship with some Calgarians will bend and not burst.

- Lucas Meyer is a reporter for 660NEWS and a contributor for Sportsnet. He’s also the play-by-play voice of the University of Calgary Dinos basketball teams

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