04/27/2016 03:10 EDT | Updated 04/28/2017 05:12 EDT

Trudeau: 'I Have Been Crystal Clear For Years Now On Pipelines'

SASKATOON — Justin Trudeau is pushing back at the federal Conservatives who are criticizing his position on pipelines ahead of the prime minister's meeting with one of his sharpest critics on the file.

Confronted in Saskatchewan, where low energy prices are battering the province's economy and have Premier Brad Wall's government in the red, Justin Trudeau repeated his often-used line that the Conservatives had years to build a pipeline while in government and couldn't get it done.

Trudeau said getting resources to market is a key responsibility of the federal government and the best way to get a pipeline built is to co-operate with communities and First Nations along the route and to respect their concerns.

justin trudeau saskatoon

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with students, teachers, chiefs, and dignitaries at Oskayak High School in Saskatoon on Wednesday. (Photo: Matt Smith/Canadian Press)

"I have been crystal clear for years now on pipelines. One of the fundamental responsibilities of any Canadian prime minister — and this goes back centuries, from grain on railroads to fish and fur — is to get Canadian resources to international markets," Trudeau said Wednesday.

"But what the Conservatives still refuse to understand is that in order to get our resources to market in the 21st century, we have to be responsible around the environment. We have to respect concerns that communities have and we have to build partnerships with indigenous peoples."

Ambrose says PM's 'waffling'

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose was also in Saskatchewan this week where she accused Trudeau of waffling on support for pipelines since last year's federal election. She says the pipeline approval process is vague and creates too much uncertainty in the oil industry, which translates into more job losses.

Wall has been one of the prime minister's loudest critics on pipelines and was to meet with Trudeau in Saskatoon later Wednesday.

The premier has said he wants to talk about pipelines during the meeting as well as push for expanded employment insurance benefits.

Wall has praised extensions to EI coverage in 12 areas hit hard by the resource downturn, including northern Saskatchewan. But he's also said Ottawa made a mistake when it didn't include workers in southern Saskatchewan's oil-producing regions.

Notley presses issue

The federal budget added five weeks to the regular 45 weeks of EI benefits, effective in July and retroactive to January 2015. Long-tenured workers will also be eligible for an extra 20 weeks of benefits to a maximum of 70 weeks.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley met with Trudeau privately on Sunday and then addressed about half the federal cabinet at a retreat in Kananaskis, Alta.

Notley also advocated for more pipeline support and for Ottawa to enrich employment insurance. She has expressed concern that workers in Edmonton have been excluded.

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