March 29, 2016 9:08 pm
Updated: March 30, 2016 12:04 pm

Justin Trudeau talks deficits, pipelines and aboriginal relations in Calgary

WATCH ABOVE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined Global Calgary's Gord Gillies to talk issues that matter to Albertans.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat down for an exclusive interview with Global Calgary anchor Gord Gillies Tuesday afternoon. We asked him about deficits, pipelines and aboriginal relations – among other things. Here’s what he had to say about the Liberal’s position on the issues that matter to Albertans.

Gord Gillies: “Prime Minister Trudeau I want to begin with a comment from you on a tragedy that began late this afternoon. John Lapierre, a hard-serving Canadian, has passed away in a tragic plane crash in Quebec.”

Justin Trudeau: “It just has me reeling. He’s such a strong fixture in Quebec and Canadian political life. It just hasn’t sunk in yet that he isn’t with us anymore.”


Story continues below
Global News

GG: “We appreciate you coming back to Calgary. You’re here on a budget tour. I want to begin with the numbers. When you campaigned across the country you were different than the other two main parties by saying, ‘I’ll run a deficit. But don’t worry – it’ll be $10 billion but we’ll pay the bills and have it balanced in a few years.’ Last week it was $30 billion, $29 billion, more billions after that – and no pay down in sight.  How does that happen?”

JT: “We’re actually fulfilling the election promises we put forward. We put forward about $10 billion worth of new spending in our platform, which when we costed our platform originally – it was starting from a level playing field with a deficit, give or take, of zero. Now, we’ve suddenly discovered we’re close to negative $20 billion in deficit and the question is: do we go ahead with the billions of dollars of investment we have promised or do we back off and try to start cutting? What we campaigned on was a commitment to invest in infrastructure, to put more money in the pockets of the middle class and to give people the growth that they need – and that’s exactly what we delivered in the budget.”

GG: “But it was still ‘10 billion’ and it was still ‘don’t worry and we’ll balance the books.’ Not to beat a dead horse here, but for the Calgarians who maybe hadn’t voted Liberal for decades and liked the message: ‘we’re going to pay it off’ – what do you say to them when it’s so big now?”

JT: “Our entire budget is focused on is creating growth for an economy that hasn’t had the kind of growth that it has needed for the past years. By investing in infrastructure, by investing in public transit and flood mitigation and putting money in the pockets of the middle class – and those working hard to join it – we actually create the growth that will lead us to a better fiscal situation.”

GG: “Certainly we in Alberta know how quickly things can change. Does that not concern you – the GDPs are great today, but maybe not tomorrow?”

JT: “Part of keeping the debt to GDP ratio good is making sure that you’re investing in the kind of things that are going to create innovation and create growth in the economy. That’s what we’re doing.”


GG: “One of the things you did that was a big hit here was helping [employment insurance] and changing the rules, extending some of the benefits. How key was that to what you want to accomplish?”

JT: “We got elected on a commitment to improve EI and there’s a lot of things we did right across the country. Whether it’s allowing newcomers to the workforce to have easier benefit to EI when we get a downturn, or indeed, allowing people to obtain EI quicker – those are changes we made right across the country. On top of that, we recognize that there are areas – three of four of the EI regions in Alberta – that are really particularly suffering. So there are 12 areas across the country that have really been hit by the commodity shock…”

READ MORE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hears Calgarians’ stories during employment insurance roundtable 

GG: “Some pushback from Edmonton and I know Premier Wall in Saskatchewan is also saying: ‘Maybe there’s some areas here hit hard as well that aren’t included.’ Any consideration for those?”

JT: “Well I think both people in Edmonton as well as Saskatchewan should be pleased that they’re not hit as hard as other parts of the country and the province have been. We’re of course going to keep monitoring to make sure that we’re doing everything we can for the places that need it.”


GG: “Of course nobody wants to be on EI. One of the ways to help the oil industry in Alberta is to get the product to tidewater. You support it. Your natural resources minister supports it. For something like Energy East – if it gets through all the hoops, checks the boxes that need to be checked – will you make it happen?”

JT: “Of course! The whole reason we put forward a process is that we are now able to demonstrate the viability on a community level, on a scientific level, and not just on an economic level. What we had for 10 years was a government that refused to respect the fact that you need an environmental strength as well as an economic reason for it. By combining the two, there are actually better opportunities to get our resources to market.”

GG: “So if you get the green light from the regulators, away we go?”

JT: “We have set forward a process that is designed to get the kind of social licence for responsible projects that we need. That’s what we’ve put in place.”


GG: “Martha Hall Findlay had an op-ed in the Global & Mail last weekend about how there seems to be a feeling in the country of regionalism. If 150 years ago there were these roadblock in place, we wouldn’t have railroads built, or the TransCanada highway. Do you worry and think about that?”

JT: “I think one of the most important jobs of any prime minister is to keep the country together. That’s why as we’ve seen regional flare-ups – whether it’s in Quebec over this, or in the west over that – I’ve been very, very quick to bring people together to say, ‘listen, we’re going to do this responsibly, but we’re going to do this all together.’ Let’s think about it: for 10 years, the economy right here supported so much of the Canadian economy. It was Alberta that did a great job, because of high oil prices, to support all of Canada.  Now that Alberta has fallen on difficult times, it’s really important that the rest of Canada be there. That’s who we are as a country.”

GG: “There still are some fears. When we mentioned we were going to be interviewing you, I got an earful from people with what I should ask you. One of them was tied in with Bombardier, another great Canadian company, another company looking for support to stay competitive. So if Bombardier jumps through the hoops and lets things go – maybe gets a billion dollars – can we expect the same kind of thing out west?”

JT: “What people can expect of me and my government is that we evaluate the projects the proposals, the interests of Canadian people, of our economy, on concrete, fact-based ways, not let emotions or political maneuvering interfere with the sound decisions that are in the interest of the entire Canadian economy.”

GG: “A lot has been made of your approach to doing that, collectively getting deals done. How will Canadians know that this is working, this different approach if you will, of being more conciliatory or whatever, team building?”

JT: “Well, we’ll have…”

GG: “We’ll need to see results right?”

JT: “We’ll see results, we’ll see growth in the economy, we’ll see better services to Canadians, we’ll see – instead of bickering among provinces and the federal government – collaboration [and] respect for municipalities. What we’re putting forward in terms of infrastructure, historic investments in infrastructure, is happening because I sat down with mayors like Mayor Nenshi here in Calgary, to talk about the opportunities and the challenges they’re facing, not just from a municipal infrastructure standpoint, but from a growth and productivity standpoint. Better public transit, better ability to deal with flood water mitigation, better response to innovation and energy challenges – these are the kinds of things that are going to build a strong economy for everyone.”


GG: “Switch gears, back to the budget for a moment, the benefits for families were key for you. Tell us a bit about what you feel is important and why you ended some that were a hit for a lot of Canadians.”

JT: “One of the things that we looked at was that there was a mish-mash of child benefit cheques – some that went to everyone, some were taxable, some were not. We said, ‘Let’s make it really simple. Let’s give every family who needs it a bigger monthly tax-free cheque that they can invest and spend on things that they need to raise their kids.’ So yes, we made it more generous for the middle class and those working hard to join the middle class, by not giving child benefit cheques to families like mine who don’t need child benefit cheques. By doing more for the people that need it, and less for the people who don’t, we’re actually able to put money in the pockets of the families that need it and will spend it.”

GG: “On Sunday, another terrorism attack rocked the world, horrible: Brussles. Still fresh in the mind: Paris. We don’t have to go back too far. We were bombing the people doing it; we’re now training people to attack them. They want to kill us or make us hate each other. Are we at war with these people?”

JT: “That’s a word that’s been thrown around. You know, ‘war’ conjures images of one army against another. There’s no question that ISIL – they’re not a state – so-called Islamic State – are terrorists, criminals, thugs, murderers of innocents and children, and there’s a lot of labels for them. What matters to me is that we be doing everything we can to contribute to the global fight against them. By stepping up our involvement in training and empowering local people to actually be able to hold against ISIL, to be able to take back their homes and their land – that’s how Canada can best help and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”


GG: “You may already have had one of the best quotes in your career: ‘Because it’s 2015’. Gender parity, you were honored for that recently, you call yourself a proud feminist. The frontrunner for the United States, gaining in popularity, isn’t really being honored by a lot of feminist groups or women’s groups. If your next visit to D.C. has [Donald Trump] living there, how will that conversation go?”

JT: “Well I’m going to D.C. a little later this week for a nuclear security summit, so, he won’t be anywhere around there, and we’ll be talking about serious things. Like I’ve said many, many times, I will work with whoever the American people choose to elect. One of the things that people are learning about me is that I don’t cross my arms and refuse to engage with people I disagree with. I look for common ground; I look to work together on issues that matter to us and regardless of who the president and who the prime minister is – the relationship with the United States is far bigger than any two personalities.

GG: “Clearly, your state dinner was a huge hit. Obviously, you’ve got a good friendship with President Obama. How will that translate into good things for Canadians?”

JT: “I think when we look at an easing of restrictions at the border, being better able to pass goods, services and even people back-and-forth while keeping us safer – that’s going to make a concrete difference in the lives of a lot of business people here in Canada. When you look at the need to move forward on a coordinated continental energy strategy and environmental strategy – this is good news for our energy producers here. There’s a lot of collaboration that, quite frankly, doesn’t happen when people take this kind of friendship for granted. So, I was happy to go down and connect with Obama and I was also happy to be meeting with a lot congressional leaderS to talk more about the long-term relationship I hope to establish.”


GG: “When you were here earlier this month, it looked like you were very touched with the Tsuu T’ina honour, and the other great First Nations, that they bestowed on you. Tell me a little about that.”

JT: “For me there is no relationship that has been more poorly managed or broken than that between Canada and First Nations and indigenous peoples this country. It’s time that we fixed it. It’s time that we built a real partnership. Not just because it’s our moral duty – when you look at murdered and missing aboriginal women, you know we have to do something – but also because building a strong economy. When we look at the proportion of young people that live in indigenous communities, it means giving them the best possible opportunities. This is about building a stronger future for all of us that share this land and for people to realize that we’ve begun to fix that relationship. There’s still a long way to go, but we have begun to renew that relationship. It was very touching.”

GG: “What was it like walking back into 24 Sussex Drive?”

JT:  “It’s smaller than I remember it. I was a little kid when we lived there last. But really the focus that I have had is on getting things done and getting to work. There hasn’t been a lot of nostalgia… I don’t spend a lot of time looking back. I am very much focused on what we need to do now and there’s an awful lot to do.”

Editor’s note: Trudeau’s answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.


© 2016 Shaw Media

Report an error


Global News