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Some politicians trying to ‘exploit’ Western alienation over Trans Mountain: Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won’t say whether he thinks Western alienation is growing because of the ongoing dispute over Trans Mountain.

Instead, he said some politicians are “trying to foment negative sentiments.”

“I think there are politicians trying to exploit it,” Trudeau said when asked specifically whether he thinks Western alienation is growing in a year-end interview with the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson.

“But I know that Canadians right across the country understand that we need to be there for each other if we’re going to succeed — that when folks are facing a tough time, whether it’s in Alberta or elsewhere, we need to support them.”

WATCH BELOW: Natural Resources minister says Alberta workers need support, announces $1.6B for oil and gas industry

Years of delays and political uncertainty forced Kinder Morgan to give up on trying to build its planned expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline this past spring.

In response, the federal government bought the existing pipeline and its assets for $4.5 billion, not including the future cost of actually expanding it.

But while construction was supposed to get underway in the summer, an injunction from the Federal Court slammed on the brakes.

That injunction said the Liberals had not adequately consulted Indigenous people about the project, and that the former government environmental review of it was fundamentally flawed for not assessing the marine impact of increased tanker traffic.

In October, the government announced the National Energy Board would complete an additional marine review of the project, to be completed by Feb. 22, 2019.

It also announced it would redo consultations with the 117 Indigenous stakeholders involved — but has refused to say when that will wrap up.

All of that means work on the pipeline is indefinitely on hold.

WATCH BELOW: Scheer won’t commit to helping Alberta with rail car purchase

And Albertans have shown their anger by booing Trudeau, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi on Monday when he spoke in French, which appeared to be a response to comments from Quebec Premier Francois Legault earlier this month calling Alberta crude “dirty energy” and rebuking suggestions the deceased Energy East project could be revived.

WATCH BELOW: Justin Trudeau on rail cars as ‘a possible solution’ for Alberta oil woes

Despite that, Trudeau said, he doesn’t think people from either province actually have negative feelings toward the others.

“I haven’t met a lot of Albertans who genuinely wish ill of Quebecers and I haven’t met many Quebecers at all who wish ill of Albertans,” he said.

“I have seen politicians of various stripes in various places, trying to foment negative sentiments and play the kinds of divisive cards that we’ve seen in the past. That’s not my job as prime minister.”

WATCH BELOW: Could Energy East pipeline project be revived?

He also ruled out reviving Energy East or any other running east-west pipeline unless the private sector puts forward an idea.

“It’s not up to the federal government to revive a pipeline project that, for market-based reasons, the company decided to withdraw,” he said, noting as well that on the Trans Mountain project, “we’re getting closer than we ever have before but there’s still a lot of work to do.”

WATCH BELOW: Justin Trudeau on why it’s on the private sector to revive any east-west pipelines

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has demanded the federal government step in with cash for rail cars to help the province transport its glut of oil to international markets. Proponents say such a move would help Alberta oil get higher prices, instead of the discounts it sells for now to its only market: America.

Trudeau said that option continues to be on the table. However, he raises questions about why the federal government should pay for rail cars to help that industry but not pay for them for others, like farmers who are also dealing with problems getting grain and agricultural products to market.

“Our officials are engaged very much with the Alberta government and we’re looking at that as a possible solution,” Trudeau said. “We’ve heard from farmers and others who are concerned with picking one important commodity over the others, we know farmers have had challenges getting their product to port as well.”

“If rail cars end up being the right solution, then we’ll be happy to participate.”

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