‘We shouldn’t be fooled by good-looking liberals’: Jane Fonda blasts Trudeau

Actress and activist Jane Fonda blasted Canada’s prime minister on Wednesday at a panel discussion in Edmonton on Alberta’s oilsands, accusing him of betraying his government’s commitments made at the Paris climate talks.

After the international climate talks in Paris in late 2015, Fonda said she had high hopes that Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government would follow through on commitments made there.

“When I heard that your prime minister, the shining hope at the … Paris climate talks, who talked so beautifully about needing to meet the requirements of the climate treaty, and respect and hold to the treaties with the Indigenous people, and so forth — such a heroic stance he took there,” Fonda said. “And yet he has betrayed every one of the things that he committed to in Paris.

“I guess the lesson is we shouldn’t be fooled by good-looking liberals, no matter how well spoken they are. What a disappointment.”

Fonda and three Indigenous chiefs, along with Canadian activist and actress Barbara Williams, attended the panel discussion Wednesday to criticize the federal government’s approval of Enbridge’s Line 3 and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipelines.

The only way to stop pipelines and further oil and gas development, Fonda said, is for people to raise their voices and use the ballot box to make politicians pay the price for their support of such projects.

“You know, let’s see the popularity bar — or whatever you call them — for your prime minister and our president-elect plummet,” Fonda said. “Let them plummet. Let them hit rock bottom. Let us expose these guys for what they are.”

A spokesperson for Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said the federal government believes the environment and economy go hand in hand.

“The oilsands are an important source of jobs and economic prosperity for Canadians,” said press secretary Alexandre Deslongchamps. “We believe we can only develop our natural resources when we can do so sustainably. That’s why we are putting a price on carbon pollution, strengthening environmental and safety standards, and making real investments in clean technology.”

Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda met with Cleo Desjarlais Reece’s of the Fort McMurray First Nation on Tuesday. (David Thurton/ CBC News)

Fonda was in Fort McMurray on Tuesday to meet with Indigneous leaders and environmentalists. Outside a Moxie’s restaurant she was approached by oilsands advocates and residents who criticized the 79-year-old actress’s agenda.

“We’re not here to trash Alberta, to trash Fort McMurray or the men and women who work in the tar sands, that’s not our purpose,” Fonda said at the panel discussion. “We are at a moment in human history that is absolutely unique, this has never happened before.”

The discussion began with an impassioned plea from Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, whose community is downstream from Alberta’s oilsands region.

Adams said his people continue to die from cancer at alarmingly high rates, a fact he blamed on oilsands developments.

“I am not an environmentalist, I am a land user, I am a provider,” he said. “Whatever food I’m bringing in from the bush, it is getting our people sick.”

The chief said he had hoped that, after four decades of Conservative rule in Alberta, things would be different when the NDP government came to power in May 2015.

But under the Rachel Notley government, he said, it’s business as usual, with the province still pushing for more pipelines the panelists agreed are unnecessary.

Takes questions

“I feel very, very ashamed to call myself an Albertan,” Adams said. “I feel very, very ashamed to call myself a Canadian citizen.”

For her part, Fonda warned that the world is running out of time to solve the problem of climate change and protect the planet.

Taking questions after the panel discussion, Fonda was asked if the Alberta government’s climate change plan, which includes phasing out coal-fired power plants, gives Alberta the “social licence” to build more pipelines.

“Well, that’s ridiculous!” Fonda shouted. “That’s absolutely ridiculous.”

She said “the little piddling things” that Canadian politicians have committed to do, such as phasing out coal or land reclamation, are only small steps that don’t add up to much.

“At least they’re trying to turn some things back to what they were, part way,” she said. “[But] if you put together all these little things that they’re doing, it doesn’t add up to much in the face to what new drilling and extraction of the tarsands, or the North Dakota pipeline, or any of the new infrastructure that’s being planned here and in the United States would do in terms of emissions. There’s no equivalency at all.”

Amplifying the voices

Deron Bilous, Alberta’s minister of economic development and trade, said Fonda’s comments are proof that more education needs to take place about what the province is doing.

“Our government has taken a number of steps,” he said. “We’ve put a price on carbon, we’re phasing out coal, we’ve put a limit capping our oilsands megatonne emissions and reducing methane emissions. This is very, very progressive. We are now a leader in Canada and internationally taking action on climate.”

The government offered to meet Wednesday with Fonda and other panel members, Bilous said.

“We offered her and her team a briefing as far as the initiatives the government of Alberta is undertaking with our climate leadership strategy and our plan,” he said. “Frankly, they accepted this briefing and didn’t show up. I can tell you that their facts, unfortunately, are outdated.”

After the panel discussion, several reporters asked Fonda why Albertans should listen to a celebrity outsider.

“When you’re famous,” she said, “you can help by amplifying the voices of people that can’t necessarily get the press.”​

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