As new Prairie representative in Ottawa, Carr says feds need to 'cut through' alienation
OTTAWA – Former cabinet minister Jim Carr, newly tasked with ensuring the Prairies have a voice in Ottawa, met with Prime Minster Justin Trudeau, the deputy prime minister, and one of the mayors of the provinces he now represents federally, to plot next steps.
Carr, who represents the Winnipeg South Centre riding, has been dubbed "special representative" for Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
"I’ll be working with my cabinet colleagues across the government that have responsibilities that impact directly on the West and that’s many. The important thing is the spirit and the attitude that we bring to the task at hand," he said in a scrum with reporters.
Carr formerly served as minister of natural resources and international trade diversification. Following the election on Oct. 21, Carr announced he had been diagnosed with a form of blood cancer.
He added that there is a sense of “openness” on the part of the Liberal government to change legislation that impacts natural resource production and infrastructure projects in Prairie Provinces.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi spoke to reporters following the meeting, stating there was "frank and open exchange of views" and received a firm commitment from the prime minister that the Trans Mountain pipeline would be built.
He said while he and Trudeau might not see eye to eye on how Bill C-69 – which expands the regulatory review process for infrastructure projects – is currently laid out, there is general agreeance "to make it better."
"He said he was open to improving the system and improving C-69," said Nenshi. "That means I will continue to be a thorn in the side to make sure this thing works better."
The election saw the Liberals shut out entirely from Alberta and Saskatchewan, fuelling speculation around how the prime minister would accommodate Prairies representation at the cabinet table.
"I’m very keen to get going," Carr said on Thursday. "We have to cut through a sense of alienation, a sense that there isn’t full potential that’s being explored and exploited in the region and that’s the task at hand."
Carr said the new role will require a great deal of "listening," and "talking with people" from those provinces, something he said he feels comfortable with given his former appointments.
A similar sentiment was expressed by now Deputy Prime Minister and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland in an interview on CTV Power Play on Wednesday.
Asked about what it will take to enhance national unity and keep the peace with provinces, Freeland said "it’s got to start with us."
"Yes, pick up the phone a lot, yes travel a lot, and truly in the first instance, my job, the job of the federal government, is to listen hard to Canadians," said Freeland.
She added that she’ll use skills acquired as the key NAFTA negotiator in recent years, in her new domestically-focused position.
"One of the things that I want to bring to the federal-provincial relationships is a reminder to us all that the reason the NAFTA negations were successful is that we listening to each other very, very well and very carefully."
This afternoon, Trudeau is gathering with his newly appointed cabinet members for their first closed-door meeting.
On his way into the meeting, Seamus O’Regan, now the minister of natural resources, told reporters that it’s the "implementation" of key legislation that will make a difference in the Prairies.
"I’m looking forward to listening to people who are in the industry and particularly workers, industry, investors, business, and officials in the provincial governments affected to find out what their ideas are on that."
Later today, O’Regan will travel to Alberta to speak with provincial Energy Minister Sonja Savage and other representatives from the energy sector.