Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is accusing the prime minister of “erratic” behaviour when it comes to international trade, telling The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos that Justin Trudeau risks alienating the very international partners Canada will need to rely on in years to come.
In a year-end interview, Scheer also defended his decision to openly criticize Trudeau during a meeting with the Japanese ambassador to Canada. The chat came about a month after the prime minister was a no-show for a leaders’ meeting on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
“I wanted to let the Japanese ambassador know that the Conservative Party of Canada is still committed to the Trans-Pacific trade partnership,” Scheer told Kapelos.
Walking away just as the TPP members were reportedly set to sign off on an agreement in principle was disrespectful, he added, and amounted to “an erratic display” from Trudeau.
“That’s not a way you treat an ally and a valued trading partner, and I wanted to ensure that the signal was sent that not everybody agrees with what Justin Trudeau has done.”
Trudeau, for his part, has argued that Canada is simply trying to get the best deal possible, and that the fact that no agreement was reached should not have come as a surprise. His office also said that his failure to show up at the meeting was due to a scheduling issue.
A few weeks after that overseas trip, Trudeau arrived in China, where rumours of an imminent announcement regarding the start of formal trade negotiations with the economic powerhouse also proved false. Adding insult to injury, Scheer said, a simple photo-op with Trudeau and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang subsequently went off the rails.
“If Justin Trudeau can’t successfully negotiate a photo op with the Chinese government, I think we should all breathe a sigh of relief that he hasn’t embarked down that (trade) road right now,” Scheer said, adding that he personally has “major concerns” about trade with China at this point.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that (Trudeau) is not actually in favour of free trade,” the Conservative leader said. “Everything Justin Trudeau touches turns into a disaster.”
In his own year-end interview with Kapelos, Trudeau argued that the Conservatives are falling back on personal attacks against cabinet ministers like Bill Morneau because they have nothing to criticize when it comes to the economy.
WATCH: Justin Trudeau on Bill Morneau telling the truth and the Opposition
Scheer vehemently disagreed, explaining that the Opposition has legitimate questions about Morneau’s personal wealth and his decisions as finance minister.
“We’ve (also) been very vocal on the massive deficits, and what that will mean for future generations of Canadians to have to pay back more and more debt racked up under this Liberal government,” Scheer said.
Asked how he can square that with evidence showing the Canadian economy is doing rather well, Scheer said that “a lot of what is going on in the economy is thanks to a lot of the fundamentals that Conservatives got right.”
At the end of the day, however, Scheer said he has nothing against Trudeau on a personal level, in spite of their sometimes tense exchanges in the House of Commons.
“On a personal level, I do appreciate both Justin Trudeau’s and (NDP leader) Jagmeet Singh’s dedication to public service. We disagree vociferously on things like policy questions … but it’s a big sacrifice,” he said.
“I do wish him all the best for the holiday season and for 2018.”