Interview: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his historic visit
Published Friday, March 11, 2016 11:07PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, March 12, 2016 12:06AM EST
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to CTV’s Chief Anchor Lisa LaFlamme at the end of his official visit to the United States.
He reflected on the historic state dinner with President Barack Obama, and the major issues in U.S.-Canada relations.
LaFlamme: You’ve had a little bit of time -- not much, granted -- to reflect on the last 36 hours. Give me your thoughts on how, personally, this visit has been for you.
Trudeau: It's been great because there’s been a whole lot of hard work combined with a lot of great meetings with fabulous people. The achievements we have in terms of the border, in terms of climate change, in terms of the Arctic, in terms of moving on trade issues were really substantive. But at the same time this was much more of a celebration of the connection between our two countries and the importance of keeping great and close co-ordination of communication.
LaFlamme: But perspective building, one year ago today, you were the leader of the third party and now you are the toast of Washington, shoulder-to-shoulder with President Obama. So personally, how surreal does that feel?
Trudeau: It’s great. But at the same time for me, it's so much of a reflection of how Canadians are. I mean people, whether it's Canadians who are working down here who have spoken with me or friends from back home who have been texting me to say, ‘This just feels so good.’ Because this is the way it should be. We should have a good, working friendship with the United States. And the fact that I ran on a campaign that part of it was re-engaging and fixing the relationship with the United States, and that's what people wanted me to do and that's what we were able to do, is just really satisfying.
LaFlamme: Now last night, did you know that President Obama would toast your mother and ask for that standing ovation?
Trudeau: I thought that was incredibly gracious. I was ready to say a few words to highlight that she was last there for a state dinner in ‘77. I mean, just the fact that he insisted on inviting her and Sophie's parents as well to be part of the state dinner really for me highlighted the fact that he understands how important family is in these jobs that we do.
LaFlamme: You seemed to be almost a little emotional at that moment. I was looking at a shot of you as your mother was standing.
Trudeau: I am so proud to be my mother's son. The fact is, all the things she went through -- and of course, we can't but reflect on the fact she was horribly criticized for having the wrong length of dress back in ’77 -- she's been through so much, and yet she continues to shine with such grace, and work so hard on mental illness and water issues and so many things, that anytime I can highlight just how amazing my mom is, I'm incredibly proud to do that.
LaFlamme: Now president Obama said you were more like siblings than friends last night. But even siblings don't always see eye to eye. So I just wonder through these negotiations, where have you perhaps differed in opinion?
Trudeau: Well, I think there are still things to work on. For example, we have a solid track on softwood lumber but we're not there yet with a deal, but I'm comfortable with the way we're moving on it.
LaFlamme: Will you, do you think, move on it before the administration changes here?
Trudeau: Well the deadline is for October so I'm certainly expecting us to get a deal. Other issues? We've had disagreements in the past on Keystone XL and other things. But the number of things we agree on and the way we engage with each other as two allies like Canada and the U.S. should –respectfully, and understand where the other is coming from on issues where there are mild divergences -- is quite frankly a model that the world should look to on how two countries can get along. Understanding, of course, there are no two countries with the relationship like Canada and the U.S.
LaFlamme: On Keystone, as you just mentioned, and today the Alberta unemployment rate for the first time in 30 years is ahead of Quebec, so there are people there who hoped you could have done more on the issue of pipelines with this U.S. market.
Trudeau: Last time I was down here I was speaking to a group of progressive Americans who were opposed to the Keystone pipeline to highlight that I was in favour of the Keystone XL pipeline. I'm in favour of getting our resources to market. But at the same time, that I fully understand that we hadn't done enough to demonstrate environmental responsibility and indeed leadership to make people feel okay about our energy resources, and that's why this step of becoming the positive player on environment and trade issues while at the same time knowing that we can work together on energy issues is what I'm hoping to help those families that are struggling. I mean, there are families in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador that are going through extremely tough times. Ultimately the relationship work we're doing here is going to lead to better jobs, more innovation, better co-ordination and better outcomes for families right across the country.
LaFlamme: On climate change, I mean, you've made this commitment with the United States, but you actually don't have agreements with all the provinces yet. Have you fielded any calls from the premiers over the last…
Trudeau: Actually, on the contrary, what we were able to nail down two weeks in the first ministers meeting in Vancouver was a commitment to the Canada-wide targets we've set from all the provinces. It was a commitment to include a carbon pricing in the solutions that were going to come in right across the country. And an agreement with the Paris Accord is what we need to do as a country. And that as a first and important and essential foundational step is very much in line with what we talked about today and what we agreed on yesterday with the president.
LaFlamme: We had a chance also to speak to in an interview with Secretary of State John Kerry, He was praising Canada for the 25,000 refugees, and the U.S. resettlement plan is so much behind track -- only a thousand of the 10,000. But those communities in Canada are actually bursting at the seams that have been taking the refugees in, with waitlists for English as a second language classes or affordable housing. And I just wonder, how can you make sure this doesn't backfire?
Trudeau: Oh I think that's at the heart of this initiative. It wasn't ever about bringing over 25,000 in short order and saying, ‘Okay, job finished.’ This has always been about the five years, the 10 years of the integration that it's going to take for these families. And yes, there have been challenges, but at the same time the extraordinary goodwill of Canadians, the support of provinces, municipalities and of course the federal government working hard too, means we're on the right track...
LaFlamme: They need money though.
Trudeau: Indeed. And we're stepping up on that. But the conversations we've had at Congress with people talking about how we were doing this, people were interested, reassured that I talked as much as I did about security and what we did around that, but also saying, you know, yes, ‘Is there ways you think that we can help more,’ and I said, ‘Absolutely,’ on this.
LaFlamme: So in closing, I want to get, if I can, three highlights from this visit.
Trudeau: Having my mom and my whole family with me on this was certainly a big piece of it. The conversations I've had with… obviously lots of Canadians down here are very excited about it, but the conversations I've had with Americans who have specifically seeked out connections they have with Canada: ‘Oh I have a cousin who dated a girl from…,’ or, ‘My grandmother was a French Canadian who moved to New England for work...’ I mean, there are so many people with connections, it just reminded me that even in a very American city like Washington, our worlds are woven in. And then third, just the extremely positive sense that goes beyond just the president, to the administration, to the officials, to the folks in Congress I met, that this relationship matters and holds a great potential for the coming years, despite the, you know, the electioneering that's going on. There's a sense that we've started something, and renewed something, that is going to sustain.
LaFlamme: I have to ask you. Was it hard at all being upstaged by your son Hadrien?
Trudeau: (laughs) You know, I am so proud of my family and I am happy to give them all the limelight they want because heaven knows I got more than I need.
LaFlamme: And how has Sophie enjoyed this experience?
Trudeau: You know what? Sophie connecting with Michelle Obama on a women and girls’ initiative was so good for her because she's been doing that for so long in Canada, and to see the way the two of them connected, and as I always say, how the two of them challenged their husbands to be better at women and girls, to be more feminist, to be grounded, she's really, really happy about what she's been working on as well.