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Trudeau can no longer say he has the West in his heart

Eden Robinson is the author of Monkey Beach and Son of a Trickster.

My father was a Public Works foreman in B.C. In the winter, our reserve had one snowplow. If the weather was awful, he'd spend 12 to 18 hours going up and down the sleepy, snowy streets of Kitamaat Village, population about 600 souls. When I missed him, I'd hop on his machine after school and sit beside him. We'd shout at each other over the metallic rumbling and clanking, our mouths pouring white steam like two tea kettles ready to whistle.

A lot of our men worked in the nearby aluminum smelter, Alcan. Dad tried it on and off, but hated being inside. He'd been a trapper, a fisherman, and a bull cook at a logging camp. He's a restless soul, always moving. His idea of a vacation was to see how far he could drive before he had to turn around and come back. Dad was good at jury-rigging things when there was no money in the budget to get new equipment. A plumber was amazed to find the pipes in the rec centre bubble-gummed together with a bicycle inner tube.

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Dad's a homebody. He loves his house with its ocean view of the Douglas Channel. He built it himself after work and on weekends. He knows every nail, he always says. He can last about two weeks in any city before he can't stand the noise and the smells any more and wants to go home. I moved back to Kitamaat Village a few years after Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

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On June 17, 2014, when Stephen Harper's federal Conservatives approved the now-defunct Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, I was sitting in Dad's bedroom. He was already tired, having a rough day. We watched the announcement on the news.

Dad started talking about moving to Vancouver Island, probably Comox, close to the oyster beds. We could sell the house, because he didn't think he'd ever come back. He didn't want to see what Enbridge was going to do to our land. I've seen Dad with a nail in his hand, not flinching, but that day as he sat on his bed, staring at the TV, we both pretended he wasn't crying.

I thought of that moment as I watched Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he led a Lunar New Year's parade through Vancouver's Chinatown. As he smiled and smiled and smiled, deflecting tough questions with platitudes and talking points, I found myself missing Stephen Harper.

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Way back in 2015, Mr. Trudeau climbed the North Shore's famous Grouse Grind in an election ad, saying he didn't just talk B.C., he had it in his blood. Well, flash forward a few years and he's not talking B.C. any more, or, more accurately, to B.C., to people like me, who have questions about his approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that will pipe oil from Alberta to the West Coast.

While the rest of the world was raining (rightful) condemnation on President Donald Trump for his Muslim ban, many Canadians probably didn't notice that Mr. Trudeau didn't do a town hall in Vancouver. He's done his apology tour for his sketchy vacation in the Bahamas in Tim Hortons outlets across the country, but not in B.C. Certainly not in Vancouver. Mr. Trudeau got credit for standing up in hostile rooms to hostile crowds, but I want you to notice who he's willing to face and who he isn't.

If he had given a town hall in Vancouver, and I was there, I would have asked him, "Has Kinder Morgan donated money to the federal Liberal Party since you were elected? How many Liberal fundraisers have Kinder Morgan representatives attended?"

Spin is a cute word for drivel. If actions speak louder than words, then Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's smiling silence says more about his "deep roots in B.C" than any well-crafted ad.

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