What’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s connection to your part of Canada?
Please note: Because it’s 2015: A Conversation with the Prime Minister will air on Dec. 25. at 6:00 p.m. on Global Television (6:30 p.m. on Global BC).
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has racked up the miles crossing the country — from travelling with his father, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, to campaigning to become prime minister himself.
From coast to coast to coast, he has a story to tell from his time in each of the provinces and territories.
In a year-end interview with Global News, Global National anchor Dawna Friesen quizzed Trudeau on his personal connections to the provinces and territories in a sort of word association exercise.
This is a lesson in Prime Justin Trudeau’s own Canadian geography.
Once upon a time, when there was still plenty of cod in the waters off Newfoundland, Trudeau joined his father on trip to Canada’s youngest province.
The memory: “Jigging for cod with my dad and Joey Smallwood when I was a kid when there was still cod in the Atlantic Ocean.”
Jigging, he explained, is just another type of fishing but with more hooks on the line.
“It was a really early memory of mine and I remember it being rainy and cold and we were on a small boat, but I loved to do things like that with my dad,” he said.
And he actually caught some fish.
He was also catching fish with an important figure in Canadian history: Joey Smallwood, the Trudeaus’ fishing companion, was a leader in the movement to bring Newfoundland into Confederation in 1949.
Trudeau got the ultimate Canadian outdoors experience, some years ago, [when?] in the northern Saskatchewan community of Hatchet Lake.
“That night we had seen incredible Northern Lights on the frozen lake and in the morning I went out snowshoeing and had a bannock on a little island.”
But it was his encounter with a local First Nations chief that stood out.
“[I] admired the local chief’s mukluks and I said, ‘Well where did you get those mukluks, they’re awesome. I’d love a pair.'”
But, as the chief told him, it wasn’t a local shop where he could find the moose hide boots.
“And she says, ‘It’s where we all get them, mukluks.com.’ And I’m like really? And I went online and I actually bought a pair of mukluks and I got all my Christmas shopping done that year for all my family because they were still great and I still wear them regularly.”
For Manitoba, it’s the cultural diversity he encountered at Winnipeg’s St. Boniface College that stands out to Trudeau.
“There is a strong Franco-Manitoban community there and there’s [a] great pride in the French college they have there,” he said.
“But one of the amazing things about it, and you don’t necessarily expect it, is an extraordinary diversity of international students from francophone countries who come there and Manitoba is doing extraordinarily well in terms of embracing diversity and having a very exciting and multi-cultural population, and St. Boniface College and the francophone community’s doing really well on that.”
British Columbia is Trudeau’s second home; he came to visit his grandparents throughout his childhood and spent a few years teaching in the province. He loves B.C. for the “outdoors, the ocean, the mountains [and], yes, being a ski bum briefly.”
It was also where he became a teacher and got to take in the sights and sounds on his commute to Pitt River Middle School in Port Coquitlam.
“[The] reversing traffic order, watching the lines of people coming in while I was going out to teach at Pitt River Middle School, just so many different experiences where the extraordinary geography and the extraordinary people here come together.”
“This is home for me and it embodies so much of the best of Canada.”
It was a political rally on a farm belonging to his now agriculture minister, Lawrence MacAulay, that the prime minister has fond memories of from P.E.I.
“People had come in from every corner of Prince Edward Island. Someone estimated that 10 per cent of the island or maybe it was one per cent of the island, but it was a lot of people had come out to a beautiful rally in the evening and I remember the sun setting and the oyster beds in the pond behind us.
“[It was] just a beautiful farm and a happy warm summer evening. Yeah, just… beautiful people, beautiful place.”
When the Northwest Territories come to mind, Trudeau said he thinks of the Nahanni National Park Reserve.
“[It’s] just an extraordinary national park that my father helped create way back in the early 70s,” he told Global News.
“It’s an absolutely amazing place that I had one of the great canoe trips of my life on,” he said, recalling a 2003 expedition and his involvement in “an initiative to expand the size of the park and to protect the entire watershed.”
One of Trudeau’s cherished memories of Ontario is the summer getaways with his family when he was young.
“My mom and step-dad had a place on the Rideau Lakes, about an hour and a half southwest of Ottawa, and we used to spend summers there just being kids out on the lake, tubing, jumping off little cliffs on Clear Lake, on a houseboat every now and then. Just summers growing up as a kid.”
He called Alberta an “extraordinary province,” but made particular note of having gone horseback riding in the province’s Rocky Mountains with his late father.
“As a kid, my dad took us horseback riding for a five-day trail ride through the Rockies, and that’s where I learned how to ride,” he said.
He passed that on his love of horseback riding to his children and teaches them to ride horseback as well.
It was in New Brunswick where newly-elected Trudeau had another big win a couple years back.
“I took the kids to stay in a little cottage near a beach in New Brunswick and spent a lot of time with the kids in the water,” he said.
“I actually entered a sandcastle building contest and won because I’m actually—not a lot of people know this, very good at building competitive grade sandcastles.”
Trudeau travelled to the Baffin Island community of Pangnirtung with a group called Students on Ice in 2012.
“Geoff Green and I, who runs Students on Ice, decided that we would go for a swim. We got all the kids into swimming in among the icebergs and stuff and we actually jumped off the top deck of the expedition ship we were on, a good 60-65 feet down into the water,” he said.
“I love to swim in icy arctic waters. There’s something so Canadian about it.”
Keeping with his experience in Canada’s North, the prime minister told Global News about a rafting trip with his father, when he was 20 years old.
“It’s where I learned my love for rafting. I went off and became a river guide for a few years after that in Quebec.”
It was during that trip, on the Tatshenshini River, with a group of 20 to 25 other people, where he said he got to interact with his father in a way that he hadn’t before.
“He saw how good I was with people and actually listening to, getting to know, you know being part of a group where he was always a little more standoffish, not good at small talk.”
“He loved one-on-one conversations. He loved speaking to crowds of tens of thousands of people. Cocktail parties or small group discussions, he wasn’t super comfortable with and I just love people and it was one of those moments where he came back and he told my mom, ‘Wow, I never realized how good Justin was with people.’ And that was a really important moment for me.”
“Stéphane Dion once pointed out, when he was leader introducing me here [in B.C.], I’m the most B.C. of all Quebecers and the most Quebecer of all B.C.’ers,” he said of his connection to the other province he calls home — Quebec.
He said he loves Quebec for the language, the culture and his home riding of Papineau.
And although it’s where he was first elected to public office, the Liberals victory in the province during the fall election also resonates with him.
“It’s a real point of pride [for] me that for the first time, in 35 years since my father was last elected prime minister, we have more than half of the seats in Quebec choosing to join the government.
And that, for me, is a real indication that Quebecers are re-engaging in the building and the future of Canada, which is a good thing for everyone.”
Trudeau shared two special memories of Nova Scotia: one involving his brothers, the other his first son.
“McGill and UBC were my alma maters. But two of my brothers, Kyle (Kemper) my half-brother, and Michie (Michel Trudeau), who now watches over a beautiful lake near Nelson, both went to Dalhousie.”
His younger brother Michel died in an avalanche while skiing in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park in 1998.
“So, I used to go out there and spend time with them while they were in university and I wouldn’t have to be studying like they would and I just got a great time to spend a few days with them, getting to know them better. And, for me, Hali’s a great city.”
A smile comes to his face when he talks about visiting Nova Scotia later in life, with his oldest son Xavier.
“A few years ago, I took Xavier down the Margaree River in an inner tube, in Cape Breton, when he was about 2-years-old and that was his first white water experience, and that was Nova Scotia.”
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