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Trudeau says he ‘misspoke’ about phasing out oil sands

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media at the end of a two-day cabinet retreat in Calgary, Alberta, January 24, 2017.

CHRIS BOLIN/REUTERS

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he misspoke earlier this month when he told an audience in Peterborough, Ont., that Alberta's oil sands must be phased out.

Speaking in Calgary on Tuesday as he wrapped up a two-day cabinet retreat, Mr. Trudeau addressed comments that have triggered significant controversy in Alberta.

"I misspoke. I said something the way I shouldn't have said it," he explained.

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Read more: Trudeau's oil sands 'phase-out' comments spark anger in Alberta

The Prime Minister has been under fire from critics for saying "we need to phase them out," in reference to Alberta's oil sands.

Mr. Trudeau did not provide a timeline then, but said Tuesday that in about 100 years, fossil fuels will no longer be needed for fuel or energy. He then attacked his critics in the federal Conservative Party, arguing that his Liberal government is doing more for Albertans than they did when in government.

"I am proud of the fact that I've been able to do a few things that the previous government was unable to do, including approving two significant pipelines and possibly having Keystone XL move forward as well in the coming years," he said, speaking on the same day that U.S. President Donald Trump announced his government's support for the Keystone pipeline proposal.

Calgary Nose Hill Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said Mr. Trudeau's latest comments on the oil sands are unlikely to win over voters in Alberta, where many are struggling with prolonged unemployment.

"People who are out of work don't need platitudes," she said, adding that the Prime Minister's initial comments struck a chord because it suggested an ideological opposition to Alberta's way of life.

"In Alberta, this is what we do," she said.

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The federal government is expected to call two by-elections in Calgary to fill seats vacated by former prime minister Stephen Harper and former Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney, who is running for leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives.

As Mr. Trudeau tried to contain the controversy over his oil sands remarks, he revealed new information related to another issue that has dogged him in recent weeks. In response to a direct question, Mr. Trudeau confirmed that he and his family vacationed on the Aga Khan's private Caribbean island over Christmas in 2014.

Mr. Trudeau is already facing questions from the federal Ethics Commissioner over a similar trip during the most recent holidays.

"The first time I went on vacation with the Aga Khan, I was 12 years old. It was a family trip with my father and my brothers and we had a wonderful time in Greece with him there. I have seen him many times since then for dinners, at his place, in various places around the world, and yes, in Christmas, 2014, I spent some time with him on Bell Island as well," Mr. Trudeau said Tuesday.

The Prime Minister's Office declined to provide further information about the trip and whether it was disclosed to the Ethics Commissioner. A PMO spokesperson said Mr. Trudeau will answer any questions the commissioner may have about either of the visits to Bell Island.

Another issue that came up during the wide-ranging news conference was Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi's request that Ottawa establish its proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank in Calgary.

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"I can assure you that wherever the infrastructure bank is placed, it will have a strong impact right across the country," Mr. Trudeau said when asked to respond to the mayor's suggestion. "There are a number of cities that are eager to house the infrastructure bank, but we have not made any decisions at this point."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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