Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today of turning his back on Western Canada and vowed that a Scheer government would unite the country by creating a national energy corridor, freeing provincial trade and empowering local governments.
Scheer made the comments today before the Royal Glenora Club in Edmonton, while delivering the latest in a series of pre-election speeches setting out his policy objectives ahead of the October federal election.
“It’s clear that every time there’s a Trudeau in the Prime Minister’s Office, our union begins to crack,” Scheer said.
“We’ve been hearing it here in the West, both in my home province of Saskatchewan and here in Alberta. And I’m here to tell you unequivocally that Canada has not turned its back on the West. Justin Trudeau has.”
Scheer said that Trudeau’s “careless mismanagement” of the federation is among the most damaging things he has done since coming to office.
He singled out the federal government’s carbon pricing scheme — which imposes a carbon tax on provinces that do not have plans of their own to price carbon — as particularly divisive.
“Trudeau’s carbon tax is a betrayal of Confederation’s early promise,” Scheer said. “The discord he has sown has prompted an unprecedented number of legal actions against his government coming from provinces frustrated at his overreaching.”
Scheer, who still has not revealed his party’s plan to combat climate change, said he would have more to say on the subject “later this month.”
The Conservative leader would only say that a Scheer government would not impose a climate plan, but would work “together with provinces, cities and other partners.”
Empowering local governments
Scheer also took issue with what he called overly-complex infrastructure funding arrangements between different levels of government, saying he’d give provincial and municipal governments more leeway.
“The federal government should empower lower levels of government, provinces and municipalities,” he said. “Too often, people sitting in desks in Ottawa design programs with a one-size-fits-all approach.
“Instead, we should trust local representatives to know their communities better than a government official in Ottawa. The accountability and transparency would naturally follow along with that.”
Scheer also repeated his pledge to build an east-west national corridor for energy infrastructure, such as pipelines and power lines — a policy he said would benefit all parts of the country.
“A coast-to-coast route dedicated to infrastructure … will move Quebec electricity west as much as it will move Alberta oil and gas east and west,” he said, adding it could do for Canada “what the Canadian Pacific Railway did in the days of Sir John A. Macdonald.”
Scheer offered few details on where this energy corridor would be built, or how he would get the provinces onside, saying that “the how and the where of a future energy corridor” would be worked out between himself and the provinces.
Scheer also vowed to launch an effort to eliminate the remaining interprovincial trade barriers “that have held back our federation for so long.”
“In the first 100 days of a new Conservative government, I will convene a first ministers meeting with internal trade at the very top of the agenda,” he said.
“The Interprovincial Free Trade Agreement will be a real free trade deal, like NAFTA, like CETA, like the TPP.”
“Our proposal will be comprehensive. We will approach it the same way we approach international trade deals, with professional commissioners and negotiators,” he added.