After jokey start, Canadian PM Trudeau promises wildfire help

Thu May 5, 2016 2:50pm EDT
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who cracked a joke in his first public remarks after a huge wildfire in Fort McMurray, on Thursday adopted a serious tone and promised that Ottawa would do all it could do help.

Trudeau, facing the first major natural disaster since his Liberals took power last November, told the House of Commons that the devastated Alberta town looked "like a war-torn corner of the world instead of our own backyard."

Over the last few days the fire has ripped through Fort McMurray, capital of Alberta's oil sands region, forcing the evacuation of all 88,000 inhabitants.

Trudeau, widely known for his empathy and ability to connect with people, seemed ill at ease on Wednesday as the scale of the calamity became clear.

When he spoke to a meeting of Liberal legislators that day, he began with a quip about the "Star Wars" movie franchise before moving on to the fires.

He started off the caucus on Wednesday by saying, "It's extremely wonderful to see everyone in such a good mood celebrating Star Wars day today. May the fourth be with you."

"PM Trudeau makes me not want to call myself a Canadian. 'Star Wars' jokes when we just lost one of the key towns of Alberta?" commented one irate Twitter user.

During last year's election, the then ruling Conservative Party had portrayed the 44-year-old Trudeau as out of his depth.   Continued...

 
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks with First Nations leaders and delegates at the File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council in Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan, Canada on April 26, 2016. REUTERS/David Stobbe