|Liberal leadership front-runner Justin Tudeau speaks to supporters in the ballroom of UBCO's University Centre in Kelowna on Tuesday.|
The perceived front-runner in the race to lead the federal Liberals told a Kelowna audience that humans are running out of time to react to the environmental crises facing us. However, he's not "automatically opposed" to pipelines that carry fossil fuels from the oilsands.
"But we do need to demand a level of accountability of transparency, of consultation and of responsiveness to the environment in the coming years," he said after his speech at UBC Okanagan.
When he visited Kelowna last January, Trudeau urged Canadians to "push back" against the Enbridge pipeline proposal.
He accused the Conservative government of forcing the project through and risking an oil spill that would blight a pristine ecosystem along the B.C. coast.
On Tuesday, he said he has "solidified" his view on the plan.
"The lack of consultation with aboriginal peoples, the impact of putting a pipeline through the Great Bear Rainforest means I don't think it's the right pipeline.
"If the report comes out with a resounding demonstration of why it's a great pipeline, maybe I'll pay attention to the report and look into it. But I very much doubt that's going to happen."
Trudeau debated against nine candidates in Vancouver on Sunday in a bid to take over the party's helm from interim leader Bob Rae. A new leader will be chosen April 14 in Ottawa.
He flew to Kelowna to make one of several stump speeches in B.C.'s Interior. Without notes, he heaped scorn on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's top-down style of leadership, casting himself as someone who can appeal to Canadians across the country.
"It's not the politics of a short-term strategic vision that's going to make it. The Conservative government is ensconced in targetting people they know will vote for them and try to please them and ignore everyone else," he told the University Centre crowd of 300.
"Members of Parliament are no longer responsible for their ridings in Ottawa. They're spokespeople for their leader."
Still, Trudeau was candid about his own party's plummeting fortunes. The Liberals have dropped to 35 seats after a series of bad elections, a steep descent from the three terms under Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
"We're in trouble as a party . . . We're not just irrelevant in Kelowna. We're irrelevant in other parts of the country," he said. "For too many years we thought about us as the Liberal party and not us as Canadians."
Cynicism among voters and divisions between regions aren't helping. Canada's economy has more than doubled in 30 years, yet the average income has risen 13 per cent, he said. The next generation may fall short of their parents' quality of life.
Trudeau supports greater investment in post-secondary education, arguing it's key to training players in today's knowledge economy and building a strong middle class.