Full transcript of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s interview with Global National’s Dawna Friesen:
Dawna Friesen: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for taking the time to talk to us.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: It’s a pleasure.
Dawna Friesen: Can you start by telling me how much of a political risk you think purchase of the pipeline is for you and how much of a risk to tax payers?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: You know, I don’t think of this in terms of political risk. I think of this in terms of what is the right thing to do for the country. And I made a promise a long time ago that we were going to grow the economy and protect the environment for future generations at the same time, and that is entirely what we’re doing right now. We’re making sure that we’re protecting good jobs and continuing to get a good price for our resources, while at the same time, moving forward with a Pan-Canadian Climate Change Plan that is going to reduce our carbon emissions and reach our Paris targets.
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Dawna Friesen: You didn’t intend to buy a pipeline, though, and you told the employees not that long ago that it wasn’t actually your first option. It wasn’t what you really wanted to do.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: No, we would have preferred for there not to have been a political context in which the private company that was moving forward to build the pipeline decided there was just too much risk and pulled out. And then we were faced with a choice of well, do we not build this pipeline that we’ve approved and decided to use in the national interest or do we ensure that it gets built? And that decision was the responsible one to take, to say no, we recognize how important it is to secure a new market other than the United States for our oil resources and that’s what we’re going to do.
Dawna Friesen: So if Kinder Morgan decided that there was too much risk, I think the risk was ‘unquantifiable’, is I believe, what they said back in April. Then, why is it not a risk for Canadian taxpayers? What’s changed between what Kinder Morgan’s assessment was and what your assessment is?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: I think the tools available to the federal government to move forward and to understand the jurisdictional conflicts and a path forward on creating a pipeline, a Pan-Canadian project, the federal government has a lot more understanding and awareness of that than an oil company based in Texas.
Dawna Friesen: But those jurisdictional problems, the environmental objections to it, Indigenous groups who are concerned about it, they all still exist. Those concerns haven’t melted away.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: But we know that path. We have been engaged in nation-to-nation reconciliation work with Indigenous communities. I was just with the Indigenous Advisory Management Committee that actually oversees the pipeline right along the length of the pipeline. There are communities there that are in favour of the pipeline. There are communities that are against the pipeline, but all of them are at the table figuring out how we—if it’s going to be done, which it is—that it be done the right way. So there’s partnerships there that a private company simply don’t have.
And on the environmental side, we were moving forward with a world-class Oceans Protection Plan, a billion and a half dollars to protect our coasts, better spill response, better tools, better partnerships, again, with Indigenous communities who in so many cases end up being the first responders when things happen, to give them the tools, give them the authorities, give them the capacity to respond. These are all tools that we have at the federal level. Plus, we know the Canadian Constitution quite well and we have jurisdiction over projects that cross provincial boundaries. If not, there never would have been a railroad built way back when.
WATCH BELOW: The risks of asking taxpayers to buy pipeline
Dawna Friesen: You had all those tools, those jurisdictional tools, all of that before you bought the pipeline.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: Mm-hum.
Dawna Friesen: So what’s changed now?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: Well, shareholders at the private enterprise that were doing it decided that the risk was too great for them. And it’s disappointing, but obviously, this is something that happened because the provincial government in B.C. decided to inject uncertainty in this project. From the Canadian standpoint, from the federal standpoint, we can handle that uncertainty and we can actually allay that uncertainty by knowing that we’re going to be able to get this pipeline built.
We’re going to be able to meet the conditions or surpass the conditions that B.C.’s put forward. We’re going to going to be able to partner to ensure that the concerns of communities or the B.C. government has about spills are met. And we stayed focused on making sure that we are doing the two things we committed to Canadians to do, to grow the economy, to get our resources to new markets, while at the same time, bringing in a Pan-Canadian Framework that’s going to reduce climate change, fight climate change and meet our Paris commitments.
Dawna Friesen: I wonder what your message to Premier Horgan would be right now. You know, he has said that he would use every tool in his toolbox to try to stop this pipeline from being built. I don’t think his view on that has changed, so where—how do you overcome that?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: I’ve spoken with John many times and will continue to. It’s really important that I have—continue to have strong constructive relationships with all premiers, and John’s no exception. And quite frankly, there are so many issues from housing, to transit, to child care, to reconciliation where we agree deeply on. Even on the environment, on the need to protect our coast, we absolutely agree. This particular issue, we disagree on but it’s an area of federal jurisdiction so I respect his difference of opinion. But we have the jurisdiction to move forward in this project of national interest.
WATCH: B.C. Premier John Horgan says federal government ‘is now totally accountable’
Dawna Friesen: So, are you just ploughing ahead then? Or do you see big obstacles in your path? There are still some court cases outstanding.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: There are still court cases outstanding and we’ll see what happens with them, but we are very confident that we have jurisdiction. And, more importantly, we’re very confident that we’re doing the right thing that this is going to allow us to reach our carbon targets. Part of creating this pipeline was getting Alberta to bring in a broad-based price on carbon and an absolute cap on oil sand emissions. For Alberta, getting a pipeline to new markets was a condition of them being able to move forward with it and there are folks, including within the B.C. government, who celebrated Rachel Notley’s victory and Rachel Notley’s moving forward with a bold and ambitious climate plan.
This all fits together and fundamentally, when I talk with Canadians, I know that they get that yes, we have to develop good jobs into the future, but we also have to make sure we’re protecting the environment and when we can do that in responsible ways, when we can further invest billions of dollars as we are in clean tech and renewables, these are the kinds of things that we know we all have to do.
WATCH: B.C., Alberta remain at odds over pipeline development
Dawna Friesen: So when construction gets underway, you know there will still be people objecting.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: Mm-hum.
Dawna Friesen: There will still be people trying to stop it, perhaps by physically protesting. How far are you prepared to go?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: Listen, it’s really important for me, and for Canadians, that people who disagree with policies or issues, be able to protest, be able to voice their opinions. That’s really important, but it’s also important that they do so safely and in a way that respects the law. I think that’s what everyone understands. We’re a country of the rule of law.
Dawna Friesen: So, what will you do to proceed with the pipeline if–?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: We’ll make sure that people are safe, absolutely. But we’ll also make sure that they’re abiding by the principles of law. We have an elected government. We have an elected government in B.C. that approved this pipeline, the previous government. Our government approved this pipeline. We’re moving forward because either you’re a country of laws and principles, or you’re a country where whoever shouts loudest gets to do things or not do things. Well, I know we all want to live in a country where the rules are followed and that’s what we’re just going to make sure.
Dawna Friesen: It could potentially not be a cakewalk, right? I mean there could be serious objections, serious protests. I have heard that one of the challenges people think you will face is standing your ground and sticking to this.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: I’ve been very clear. I’m honoured and privileged to be a prime minister of Canada and my focus is on serving this country in the best possible way and we made a determination. And I made the promise to Canadians that I wasn’t going to choose between the economy and the environment. There are parties out there that want you to make a choice, it’s either all about the environment or it’s all about the economy. And one of the things we had coming out of 10 years of Stephen Harper, is we saw that someone who makes that choice, he tried to choose the economy.
Not only did he not do much on the environment, but he wasn’t able to get much done on the economy either. He wasn’t able to get pipelines built. He wasn’t able to get the broad support from Canadians that means that you move forward responsible on this and I think that’s something we’ve worked very hard to get.
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Dawna Friesen: So you’ve said that you speak regularly to Premier Horgan. What’s your message to him right now?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: That we’re going to continue to work together on issues where we agree and we’re going to continue to disagree on other ones.
Dawna Friesen: But you don’t agree on this one.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: No. But we’re going to work together on other issues like housing and child care.
Dawna Friesen: But are you convinced you can overcome this obstacle and get him onside?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: This is an issue of federal jurisdiction. This is an authority that the federal government has, to build projects that cross provincial lines, and party lines too in this case. This is what we’re going to do.
Dawna Friesen: And there are court cases outstanding.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: Yes. There have been and there will be more, or there continue to be some ongoing and we will of course, watch how those unfold.
Dawna Friesen: I want to ask you about the tanker traffic in the Port of Vancouver, for people who are from British Columbia, who live there, it’s a huge concern that we’ll go from four tankers a month to about 34 when and if the pipeline is built. What guarantees are there that you can give that diluted bitumen spills will be cleaned up?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: First of all, the focus we’ve made on marine safety and recognizing that the Port of Vancouver has already a very well-serviced marine environment with strong investments in it that we’re investing even more. And when we talked originally to British Columbians to former premier, to Premier Horgan, we’re talking about a world-class spill response. I mean what we’re putting into place with our Oceans Protection Plan is going to be as good as just about any country, including Norway around the world and we’re going to have a partnership with Indigenous people to ensure that they are also part of the solution. So yes, there are always going to be risks with resource development, but we’re doing everything we can responsibly do to minimize those risks.
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Dawna Friesen: Do you feel the concerns, the worries of environmentalists, in particular, are legitimate?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: I think there’s a lot of people with concerns and we are working very hard to demonstrate that we also share a lot of those concerns and are working to allay them.
Dawna Friesen: When will construction actually begin?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: It’s beginning within days, as far as I can tell, yeah.
Dawna Friesen: And what’s the timeline? Is there a–?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: Timeline is a number of years. I know the timeline hasn’t changed from what the proponent had most recently said.
COMMENTARY: Trudeau passed the buck on Trans Mountain
Dawna Friesen: So, will there be oil flowing through the pipeline expansion by the time of the next election?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: No, I think it’s a couple more years than that.
Dawna Friesen: I raise that because of the political capital being spent. You know that there are some prominent Liberals in British Columbia who are opposed to the pipeline, who have made it very clear their opposition. You could lose seats in British Columbia over this. Does that concern you?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: As I said from the beginning, my focus is on doing the right things for the country. If electoral math is all that you care about, then you’re not going to do a very good job of doing what’s in the right interests of the country. I am confident, from the conversations I’ve had with Canadians right across the country, including folks in B.C. that folks in B.C. also care about growing our economy and being responsible about getting our resources to markets other than the United States, which is particularly important now. And I spoke with lots of folks in Alberta who care deeply about protecting the environment for future generations and work very hard on that.
So, I don’t see the kind of polarization that we’re getting around the very vocal elements of this debate, translating really to people in the mainstream in their daily lives. I mean I can highlight that there’s a number of conversations that I’ve had with folks who’ve said yeah, I’m worried about that decision that you made on the pipeline but I’m confident having heard you that you have good reasons for doing it and we’ll continue to trust in you. And I think that sort of reflection and that demonstrating—I understand that there are decisions that we have to take sometimes that are not going to please everyone universally, whether they’re our supporters or others. But when one is serving one’s country and when you’re trying to do the right thing for future generations, building a protective environment and growing a strong economy at the same time is something that’s more important than winning a few extra seats here or there.
WATCH: Rallies held across Canada to protest Trans Mountain pipeline
Dawna Friesen: Did you feel that you had any other options other than buying this pipeline? Were you sort of in a corner and this was the solution that you had to do?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: No. There are always other options, but if I wanted to actually move forward and reach our climate targets in Paris and protect the environment for future generations, I knew that we have to keep growing the economy and keep Alberta onside and keep the prairie provinces forward, and mostly, stop getting the $15 billion loss we get every year because we can only sell our oil to the United States right now. So, all those things together for me, means that this was the right decision to take.
Dawna Friesen: If there were other options, what were they?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: I think we’d looked early on at the possibility of legislation that would reinforce the federal jurisdiction over the pipeline, over interprovincial projects, but we came to the conclusion that that jurisdiction was well-established already and reinforcing that simply through legislation wasn’t going to be enough to either prevent B.C. from continuing to say that it was going to do everything it could to block it, or to reassure the proponent that this was the path forward.
Dawna Friesen: Let me switch subjects to something that’s much more simple: trade, and Trump and tariffs. You’ve got a lot on your plate coming up with the G7 Summit. What will be the first thing that you say to President Trump when you see him?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: Well—
Dawna Friesen: And after that?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: I think stepping back, what the G7 is all about—I mean this will be my third G7 and this is—if you can picture it—an opportunity for the seven leaders of the most advanced economies in the world, to sit down around a table without a whole slew of advisors or cameras and actually just talk about the issues that matter to us. And all of us lead very similar countries with similar values. And yes, there’s ideological differences and program differences and perspectives, but this is an opportunity for us to sit down and talk frankly about big issues that matter. And that, quite frankly, is a really positive thing in the world right now to be able to actually exchange with really important economies in the world.
WATCH: How should Justin Trudeau handle Donald Trump at this week’s G7 meeting?
Dawna Friesen: That all sounds lovely, but President Trump has just started a trade war and you have said, and your foreign minister have said, that what he did is insulting and absurd. Are you going to tell him that to his face?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: And I have. I mean I’ve highlighted—
Dawna Friesen: Have you had phone calls with him since the decision?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: I’ve had many phone calls in which—not since the decision but as the decision was coming up, where we’ve been talking about this for close to a year, since the last G7 meeting in Sicily.
Dawna Friesen: But you were so close to a deal on NAFTA and then this all blew up in your face, right? I mean was that not a shock?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: Well—
Dawna Friesen: The tariffs and the—
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: As one knows, this is a U.S. administration that prides itself on its unpredictability and because of that, we have had alternatives and plan B’, C’s and D’s all over the place, to be able to move depending on what happens. But we’re going to continue to look to work constructively and bring people together. Yes, where there are points where we disagree, I will be very firm, as I always have been on standing up for Canadian interests and Canadian jobs. But at the same time, I’m also going to look for ways we can work together constructively like growing the middle class, which is something that he got elected on and something that I got elected on and a challenge that is common to all of us at the G7.
Concerns about global security, whether it’s North Korea or elsewhere, we’re going to have very good and substantive conversations on that. How we’re going to protect our oceans from plastics. How we’re going to do a better job of including women in the full success of our economies. These are important things where we will find common ground. There will be areas, trade and climate change, where we will disagree but we will be able to do so in a direct and constructive way.
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Dawna Friesen: Let me just ask you outright. Is NAFTA dead?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: No. No, it’s very much still in place and it’s still ongoing. And it serves $2 billion worth of goods that go back and forth across our border every day.
Dawna Friesen: And are you entertaining the idea of bilateral direct negotiations with the United States and not having a deal that includes Mexico?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: That’s been the latest idea the president has brought up. We know that the trilateral deal has worked extraordinarily well for Canada, for Mexico and for the United States so we’re going to continue focusing on that.
Dawna Friesen: What’s wrong with a bilateral deal with just the United States?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: I think when we look at the gains that come from having a continent-wide trade deal, the benefits of having Mexico, Canada and the United States together in a trade deal, it’s much better to do it that way and that’s why we’re going to continue to defend that.
WATCH: Trump wants to turf trilateral talks but what does that mean for Canada?
Dawna Friesen: It seems, it was so close to a deal, and then Mike Pence throws a wrench into it.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: He highlighted that the president felt that there had to be a sunset clause.
Dawna Friesen: A sunset clause.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: Yeah.
Dawna Friesen: So where is all that now? Negotiations—you expended a lot of time and energy and a lot of your people did going across the United States and to D.C., to try and build relationships and all of that. Is that still paying off or do you feel like you’re on shaky ground?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: Absolutely. No, no it’s very much still ongoing. We still know that there is a good deal out there that can be a win, win, win for our countries. We have some very strong positions and very firm lines, but we also know that there is a possibility to move forward and as long as there’s a table to negotiate at, Canadians will be there putting forward our best efforts to get a good deal.
Dawna Friesen: You know, when I ask people what I should ask Prime Minister Trudeau today, almost all of them said “Ask him how he deals with a guy like President Trump?” Like with a guy like President Trump. I’m sure you’ve had that question before. How do you deal with someone as unpredictable as President Trump?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: I think, you know, I do what Canadians expect me to do, which is have a constructive, productive relationship in which we can work together that is based on not insulting each other and not disrespecting each other, but at the same time, I’ve made it very, very clear, and to be honest, the president entirely understands this, part of my job and part of what he expects from me, is to always be standing up for Canadian interests. And I do that unequivocally and he’s not threatened by that. He’s not going to say, “Oh no, Justin”—he’s sort of, as we’ve seen with some of his Tweets, response like “Oh, you know, Canada’s always taking advantage of us.” Well, Canada stands up for itself and we will continue to. And that’s something that he understands.
Dawna Friesen: So how far is this dispute going to go then? Right now you’ve put retaliatory measures in place.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: The relationship between Canada and the United States is unlike the relationship between any two countries in the world. The connections are deeper. The trade ties, the cultural ties, the family ties, the person-to-person connections go so much further than just the president and the prime minister. And that is really—yes, there are concerning discussions around trade conflicts right now, but for the most part, this relationship continues to move along and be tremendously beneficial to citizens on both sides of the border. And we’re going to stay focused on making sure that it continues to.
WATCH: Trudeau on tariffs
Dawna Friesen: Have you talked to other foreign leaders about how to—what strategy to adopt at the G7 in dealing with President Trump?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: I think, you know, the conversations are ongoing amongst all foreign leaders about how we engage with each other and how we can align on certain things and other things. And I know we’re going to have some very, very frank conversations quite clearly around the table, where the Europeans and Canada are quite disappointed at being labelled a national security threat to the United States because of steel and aluminum. I mean that’s something that’s hard not to sort of scratch your head and say, you know, in what universe is Canada your NORAD partner, we’ve fought and died side by side in so many places around the world, has somehow become a national security threat.
So I think there is going to be a certain wondering of why exactly and where exactly the president wants to go with that and the G7 context is one in which we can be fairly direct on this. But at the same time, one of the things we know is despite that particular conflict, which is significant but is what it is, there are lots of other areas in which we do agree, where we can work together and will work together and that’s always what we’re focused on.