MONTREAL: Bearing posters of Justin Trudeau’s face, written over with green crosses and the word “pipeline,” students gathered in front of the prime minister’s Montreal campaign headquarters.
“Three steps forward, three steps back, that’s government policy,” they chanted. They – like many other young Canadians – were railing against what they consider deficiencies in Trudeau’s environmental policy. The nationalization of an oil pipeline in 2018 is one of the major criticisms leveled against Trudeau, who is seeking re-election in Canada’s election on Monday.
The Liberal government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline, which links Alberta to British Columbia, from the American energy giant Kinder Morgan for Can$4.5 billion ($2.7 billion, 2.4 billion euros).
The goal was to speed up the export of oil from Alberta to new foreign markets. In exchange, the Canadian government promised to invest the profits in green technology.
Many Canadian environmentalists viewed Trudeau’s move as a betrayal. The deal may cost him crucial votes on Monday, with the prime minister currently polling neck and neck with Conservative Andrew Scheer.
For activists, Trudeau, who was a symbol of hope when he took office in 2015, is no longer a change agent but the man who didn’t do enough for the environment.
“We’re seeing an uptick in membership in all sorts of environmental groups at McGill” in recent weeks, said Audrey Nelles from Divest McGill, a student group advocating for the prestigious Montreal university to withdraw funds it has invested in fossil fuels. “I think that after the Harper years, there was a lot of hope,” said Annabelle Couture-Guay, also of Divest McGill, referring to Trudeau’s Conservative predecessor Stephen Harper.