Provincial politicians were quick to push back against comments Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made in an Ontario town hall meeting Friday morning, where he said the oilsands would need to be phased out.

The meeting was held Friday morning in Peterborough, Ontario – and he spoke partially about the future of Alberta’s oilsands.

“We can’t shut down the oilsands tomorrow. We need to phase them out. We need to manage the transition off of our dependence on fossil fuels,” Trudeau said. “That is going to take time, and in the meantime we need to manage that transition.”

Official Opposition leader Brian Jean was quick to condemn the comment on Twitter.



He spoke to CTV News later, and said the comment made him angry.

“He shouldn’t pander to one side of the country and slap the other side of the country in the face,” Jean said. “That is not a Prime Minister. This is somebody who believes in divisive politics and I found it disgusting.”

Jean said he’s tired of people attacking the oilsands and Fort McMurray, his hometown – he recalled how devastating the National Energy Plan, which was created by Trudeau’s father, was back in the 1980s.

“Justin Trudeau is going to actually close it down, and he doesn’t care about the people of Alberta, doesn’t care about the people of western Canada,” Jean said.

Meanwhile, Premier Rachel Notley pointed to recent decisions from Ottawa to give the greenlight to pipeline projects.

“You know, the federal government just approved a pipeline to tidewater, so I don’t think that would have happened if they were actually planning, or believed that any phase-out was imminent,” Notley said.

Notley said she hadn’t heard the comment directly, but said she suspects it’s a matter of interpretation.

Trudeau said it is the government’s responsibility to get resources to market but choices will need to be made to end Canadians’ dependency on fossil fuels.

Jean warned the economic impact of phasing out the oilsands could affect the entire country.

“I think Canadians need to be aware that if indeed he goes through with his plan, Canada will be much poorer as a result,” Jean said.

The Wildrose leader is demanding an apology from Trudeau, and has vowed to fight for the province’s energy sector.

With files from Amanda Anderson