BRIDGETOWN, N.S.—On his first tour through Atlantic Canada since the emphatic election win last fall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took steps to shore up goodwill, announcing millions in infrastructure funding and wading through crowds of supporters hoping for selfies or autographs.
All 32 federal ridings east of Quebec went Liberal red in last fall’s election, but recently, regional representatives have raised concerns about Ottawa appearing to back away from Atlantic Canadian representation on the Supreme Court. There have also been rumblings over what form federal health transfers will take for provinces with smaller, aging populations.
During a stop Aug. 16 in Bridgetown, N.S., Trudeau downplayed concerns over any potential unrest in the Atlantic provinces.
“We are very serious about working with all Atlantic Canadians, listening to the concerns that the premiers and our colleagues are bringing up around ways to better work together,” said Trudeau, who spent time with all four premiers during the two-day swing through the eastern provinces.
He said he was “humbled” by the confidence the region’s voters had shown in his party in the last election.
“I am hearing regularly the concerns of Atlantic Canadians, whether it be around the Supreme Court or other issues, and we will always take them closely into account and be true to the confidence that Atlantic Canadians placed in this government.”
Trudeau announced $119 million in federal funding for wastewater and public transit projects in Nova Scotia during the appearance in Premier Stephen McNeil’s home riding.
Speaking under sunny skies, Trudeau said $87 million would be used to upgrade water and wastewater systems including in Bridgetown, Lunenburg and Fall River.
“These projects will upgrade water and wastewater systems in communities right across Nova Scotia,” said Trudeau.
He said the $32 million in public transit funding would help upgrade accessibility on buses and buy more buses.
“It will mean more buses on the road,” Trudeau said. “Folks in the busier hubs across Nova Scotia know that it’s frustrating to wait for a bus that never seems to come.”
The province is also contributing $119 million for wastewater and public transit projects, bringing the total investment to $238 million.
A news release said the funding is retroactive to April so the projects “can proceed without delay.”
“I am confident that the speed at which these agreements were signed will lead to the kinds of growth and the kinds of investments that have been made,” Trudeau said. “We know that communities need jobs and we are going to get people to work.”
The announcement drew a skeptical response on Facebook from potential Conservative leadership candidate Lisa Raitt.
“Ha! The PM thinks that shovelling money in absolves the disrespect he’s showing to Atlantic Canada. Typical Liberal party.”
Trudeau later travelled to New Glasgow, N.S., where he was greeted by a large and enthusiastic crowd in the hometown of former Conservative cabinet minister Peter Mackay.
In scenes reminiscent of the campaign trail, Trudeau plunged into the crowd with his security detail for more than 45 minutes, as well-wishers closed in with their phones and tablets to get a close-up shot.
The prime minister then left for Charlottetown, where he was greeted by an enthusiastic throng at the airport and had a closed-door meeting with Premier Wade MacLauchlan.