Love and loathing as Trudeau touches down for Calgary Stampede
After initially saying his schedule wouldn’t permit a visit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Calgary for the Stampede on Saturday, and made stops at events around the city in a visit met with a mix of love and loathing.
Addressing reporters, Trudeau said he has received some “gentle ribbing” since forgetting to mention Alberta during his Canada Day speech, when he listed the provinces and territories during the Ottawa festivities.
“I think everyone understands mistakes happen every now and then, and the fact I keep coming back to Alberta regularly… is something most people appreciate very much,” he said.
Among those who got to meet Trudeau was sleeping baby Justin-Trudeau Adam Bilal, and his parents Afraa Hajj Hammoud and Mohammed Belal.
The two named their child after the prime minister after fleeing Syria and arriving in Canada by way of Lebanon in 2016.
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“It was actually very good, it was amazing. I can’t believe that I met the Prime Minster Justin Trudeau,” Hammoud said.
“He held [the baby] and he said, ‘This is Justin-Trudeau,’ and then he says, ‘I appreciate that you named him after my name.'”
Among’s Trudeau’s stop were at the Parkdale Community Stampede breakfast, where he dished out pancakes.
“I’m super excited that he came to Alberta, and he’s welcome to come any time,” said Linda Morgan. “I think he’s incredible.”
Morgan shrugged off the fact Trudeau initially forgot to mention Alberta in his Canada Day speech, a gaffe that the prime minister later apologized for.
“I think he gave an incredible speech on Canada Day on Parliament Hill, and with all the excitement going on for a big speech, I didn’t hold any grudge about it,” Morgan said. “He’s been great to Alberta.”
Two men who camped out on a nearby roof with a sign that read “Trudeau, why don’t you pay widow ‘Speer,'” took a different view of the PM’s visit.
Their sign was in reference to the wife of U.S. Sgt. Chris Speer, who was killed in a firefight in Afghanistan that involved Omar Khadr.
Khadr was later convicted in the death.
Recently, he was given $10.5 million and an apology from the government for Canada’s role in locking him away in Guantanamo Bay.
“I want to send him a message in a nice way,” said Daxton Yont, one of the men with the rooftop sign. “You know, you can’t be rude about it. You have to get your point across in a reasonable manner, and I think this is a good way to do it.”
Trudeau told reporters he understands why people are frustrated over the Khadr settlement.
“I’m concerned about the money as well, which, as I said, is why we settled,” he said. “We were on a track to losing a court case that was going to cost us $30 million to $40 million, and that, quite frankly, wasn’t something people would have been happy about either.
“So we decided it was the right thing to do, to settle, both because it was the fiscally responsible thing to do, but also because we recognize when governments violate Canadians’ fundamental rights, there has to be consequences.”
Despite his message, Yont doesn’t begrudge the prime minister’s visit.
“It’s actually an honour to have him right close to the house here, but at the same time I feel that he came here just to suck up to the province,” Yont said.
“There’s been a lot of things that I think he’s missed over the last few years out here, and a lot of other people share my thoughts.”
Trudeau was also asked about the B.C. NDP government’s opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline and how far he would be willing to go to see it built.
“The decision we made to support Kinder Morgan pipeline… was not based on politics, it was based on facts, on evidence, on what is in the best interest of the country,” he said.
“A change in government doesn’t change the facts, we are committed to opening up new markets for our oil resources. That’s something this government knows we need to do.”
Ernie, who said he wouldn’t provide his last name because he “didn’t want to be haunted,” was a bit less diplomatic. As the prime minister’s caravan pulled he away, he yelled out, calling Trudeau “a bum.”
“We had a choice of two [breakfasts] and we decided to come here because we wanted to see the bum, and we got pretty close,” he said between booming laughs.
“I’m surprised that he remembered Alberta.”
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