Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made his first visit of the campaign to Calgary late Saturday night, where he was met with a warm reception by hundreds of Liberal supporters inside the rally — but a chillier greeting from the dozens of protesters outside.
“Who says there are no Liberal supporters in Alberta?” Trudeau asked the crowd in a hoarse voice, shortly after taking the stage at Magnolia Banquet Hall, located in the northeast riding of Calgary Skyview, at 11:30 p.m.
It was the leader’s fourth speaking engagement of the day, with prior stops in Ontario and Manitoba.
Trudeau has only made one other visit to Alberta during the campaign. Last month, he attended a Liberal rally in Edmonton where he touted his government’s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
During his 15-minute stump speech, he took a shot at Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
“I have been coming to Alberta a few times every year … and I know that there are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of progressive Albertans who do not feel Jason Kenney speaks for them,” he said. “So we need to make sure in Ottawa we have progressive Alberta voices building a government that reflects the values of Alberta and our entire country.”
Trudeau didn’t take any questions.
Liberal candidate for Calgary Skyview Nirmala Naidoo warmed up the room, telling attendees that Trudeau made the trip because Calgary — and Alberta — are important to the party.
Calgary Skyview was won in 2015 by former Liberal Darshan Kang, who resigned from the party in August 2017. Kang is not running in this election.
Outside the hall, protesters — many of whom wore yellow vests — chanted and waved signs reading “I’m voting for pipelines” and “Trudeau, why do you hate Alberta?”
The provincial United Conservative Party had invited supporters via email on Saturday to peacefully protest outside of Trudeau’s event. It asked people to bring signs and wear “pro-oil and gas gear.”
“Trudeau has failed this province,” the email read. “We don’t believe Trudeau has earned the right to have any MPs from Alberta.”
Conservative candidates typically dominate in federal elections in Alberta. In 2015, the Liberals snagged a few seats, winning two in Edmonton and two more in Calgary. It marked the first time the party picked up seats in Calgary since 1968.
Trudeau recalled a 2015 visit to Calgary, saying that at the time Canadians made a historic choice to “turn our back on 10 years of Stephen Harper’s cuts and austerity and nothing on climate change to pick a better direction for our country.”
“We did that by sending extraordinary Alberta MPs to Ottawa, and we’re going to do that again this year,” Trudeau said.
This election cycle, the Liberals are struggling to hang on to the Alberta ridings — including those held by former and current cabinet ministers who are engaged in tight races with Conservative opponents.
In Calgary Centre, Kent Hehr, who was once minister of veterans affairs and later took on the sports and persons with disabilities portfolio, is battling Conservative candidate Greg McLean.
Meanwhile, Amarjeet Sohi, who first served as Trudeau’s minister of infrastructure and later natural resources, is up against Conservative candidate Tim Uppal in the riding of Edmonton Mills Woods.
With only two days to go until Monday’s election, CBC’s Poll Tracker charts the Liberals and Conservatives nearly in a dead heat nationwide, with the Liberals barely inching ahead.
But in Alberta, where voters are reportedly resentful over Liberal initiatives like the carbon tax and frustrated with pipelines that failed to materialize, the numbers indicate more than 58 per cent of residents intend to vote Conservative, compared to more than 16 per cent for the Liberals.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier have also made stops in Calgary during the election campaign.