Liberals nominate well-known anti-pipeline activist to take Montreal NDP seat
Within a few minutes of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s speech Wednesday night introducing his newest candidate for the fall election, a protester lifted up a sign and began screaming anti-pipeline slogans.
The crowd of roughly 150 people went silent. The female protester demanded Trudeau respect Indigenous sovereignty and stop the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline, which the federal government bought for $4.5 billion.
“There are Indigenous communities who want to see this move forward,” Trudeau replied. “Why are you de-legitimizing the Indigenous communities who support the energy industry?”
The crowd roared in approval but Trudeau’s new recruit, well-known and respected environmental activist, Steven Guilbeault, did not clap. He stared into the audience with a stern look on his face.
Guilbeault in 1993 helped found a major environmental advocacy group in Quebec called Equiterre. The activist also worked for Greenpeace for ten years before returning to Equiterre as its director and spokesman in 2007.
He is also against Trans Mountain. But he thinks he can do more to fight climate change inside the Liberal party than outside it.
“I understand that in order to advance things, you need to compromise,” Guilbeault said in the east-end Montreal riding of Laurier—Sainte-Marie.
“I find in the Liberal party everything I need to continue the fight against climate change.”
Guilbeault will be a star candidate for the Liberals. The party hopes his name recognition and environmentalist bona fides will allow it to take the Laurier seat away from the NDP and increase the Liberals’ presence in Quebec.
The riding bordering the St. Lawrence River has been NDP since 2011. Before that, it was the stronghold of former Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe. The Liberals haven’t held Laurier since 1988.
Laurier is important for the Liberals, who are looking at the NDP’s 15 seats in the province as a way to help them win the October election. The riding is urban, bilingual and slightly poorer than the provincial average.
Guilbeault has shown throughout his career that he isn’t the stereotypical anti-capitalist, environmental activist. He’s worked as a strategic consultant for a major venture capitalist fund that invests in clean technology and other environmentally conscious industries.
“I did it for 25 years,” he told reporters after his moment on stage with Trudeau.
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