Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau spoke with Global National’s Dawna Friesen Tuesday, during a campaign stop in Burnaby, B.C.
The sit-down would be his first one-on-one interview since photos and video of him in brown and blackface emerged last week.
Here’s the full transcript of Trudeau’s interview:
DAWNA FRIESEN: I’d like to start with something that you’d probably rather forget, but the fact that you’ve been exposed as someone who wore blackface on what we know of three occasions, most recently in 2001, when you were 29 years old and a teacher. It is the biggest hit your campaign has taken, so far. It’s all down to you. It was you. Doing that putting that makeup on. What has that done to your campaign and what does it say about your judgment?
JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I think. It’s something that I’ve recognized was a terrible mistake. I should have known better at the time, but I didn’t and I’m going to have to work a long time to continue to demonstrate the kind of focus I’ve had on fighting racism, fighting discrimination, fighting intolerance as I’ve worked on as a politician.
DF: You know your critics say it makes you a hypocrite, that you set high standards for other people but you don’t live up to them yourself.
JT: I certainly set high standards for myself, as well, and I hurt a lot of people I care about deeply. It was a terrible mistake and I take full responsibility for it. I apply those high standards to myself. I will always fight against racism intolerance and discrimination. And I heard a lot of people who… who considered me an ally.
DF: You know people have been fired for doing this, certainly lost their reputations for it. You’ve asked for forgiveness, but why should Canadians give you a pass, because you’re leader of a party?
JT: I have someone who has demonstrated throughout my political career, and indeed as prime minister, that fighting anti-(inaudible) racism, fighting systemic discrimination, fighting unconscious bias, and putting real money and real initiatives and working hard to fight all this intolerance, is something that I’m… I’ve done and I’m going to continue to do and I’m going to continue to do even more, given that I have obviously not lived up to that in the past.
DF: When did you stop thinking that darkening your skin was acceptable? Was it something… did someone tell you, “Hey. You know, this is crazy.” You’re covering not only your face your throat, your hands. I think in the video even your legs. Did someone say to you, “Justin you’re got to give this up”?
JT: As I’ve just spoken about, I represent one of the most diverse, multicultural ridings in the country and the work I’ve done in the late 20 — well 2008, 2009 — to be a better representative, a good representative for people by spending time in mosques and gurdwaras, and with the Haitian community and all the diverse communities in my riding, and fighting for them left me to understand to a much greater degree the kind of discrimination and intolerance that people face on a daily basis because of the color of their skin. And that’s why I understand now, which I should have understood then, that it is always unacceptable.
DF: So as when you got into politics?
WATCH: 2019 Federal Election: Trudeau says he’s a ‘different person now’
JT: I think the years following my father’s death involved a lot of changes for me. I went back to Montreal in 2002. I went back to school, studied engineering, studied environmental geography. I got involved more with Katimavik, Canada’s national youth service program. I did more environmental and youth activism. I was learning a lot more about public engagement, a lot more about service and, obviously, I am a very different person today than I was back then.
DF: So, 2001 was the last time?
DF: Have you talked to your mother about this?
JT: Yes. I’ve talked to my mother. I’ve talked to my kids, I’ve talked to friends.
DF: What did your mum say?
JT: My mum is someone who has lived through very difficult times in the public eye — some of it possibly deserved, some of it not. She reminded me to stay focused on both the people I’ve hurt and how I’m going to do better in the future.
DF: Was she disappointed in you?
JT: I think everyone. A lot of people who know me were disappointed in me.
DF: You disappointed in yourself?
JT: Sure. Of course. I hurt people who I care about deeply and who trusted me. And that is something that I… I need to understand but also something that I am going to need to work for the rest of my life to do better.
DF: You know lots of people are making fun of you. Comedians, late-night talk show hosts. You’ve become the butt of jokes. Do you think you’ve embarrassed Canada on the world stage?
JT: I think we’ve seen a social media world and indeed an entertainment world that has chosen to poke fun at me for many things in the past. I think at the same time a lot of people know that the things we’re doing as a government and the things that we’ve achieved, and what we stand for, also matters. And, you know, people will do what they do. I’m going to stay focused on serving Canadians in the right way.
WATCH: Federal Election 2019: Does Trudeau have any other ‘skeletons in the closet’?
DF: This made headlines around the world. That other stuff doesn’t. This did.
JT: Well, there have been other times that there have been headlines around the world for my behaviours…
DF: So, you don’t think this stands out as a particularly…
JT: Absolutely, this does. Absolutely, this does. And it forces me, and us, to continue to do even more to fight discrimination and racism. It’s certainly something that I’m going to do.
DF: Are there any other skeletons in the closet, things that you’ve done in your past that you’re not proud of that you’ve disclosed to your staff?
JT: We’ve all made mistakes in the past. But my focus has been on, certainly over the past years, on serving Canada to the best of my ability and making the kinds of decisions that have led Canada to do extremely well over these past four years, whether it’s job creation or lifting people out of poverty, or fighting against discrimination and intolerance. We see a time in the world where there is a lot of cynicism and skepticism around politics, around politicians, around their institutions. And there are always going to be things people can point to become more cynical, inspect skeptically. My focus has been on trying to demonstrate that we can do things and we are doing things that make a real difference in people’s lives.
DF: I asked you if there are any more skeletons in the closet that you’ve discovered disclosed to your staff.
JT: I think we’ve all done things that we are unhappy with and things that we learn from. And I’m no different than anybody else.
DF: So there could be other things…
JT: I’m no different than anyone. People know I’m not perfect, but people also know what I stand for.
DF: Let’s talk about climate, which is top of mind for a lot of Canadians in this campaign and in the world we’re living in now. You’ve announced a plan to push Canada to net-zero emissions by 2050. That sounds like a bold plan. What specifically are you going to do? What measures are you going to take to do that?
JT: Well, first of all, we are going to be meeting our 2030 targets on track as we’ve committed to. But we need to do much more. That’s why part of what we’re doing is bringing in panels of experts who will determine the intermediary targets that will be legislated every five years in order to meet them.
DF: So, let me stop you on that. Legislated every five (years)… so legally binding target that, what, companies and provinces will have to meet?
JT: We are going to be talking with experts. We’re going to talking with the kinds of people who know what it’s going to take to do it, based on what we’ve already done.
DF: So you haven’t talked to those experts yet… but you’re going to?
JT: We have demonstrated the ability to bend the curve. We have demonstrated that we can reduce emissions because we are going to be meeting those 2030 targets. And the way we did that…
DF: You haven’t met the 2030 targets. You had four years.
JT: Well no, because you know 2030 yet. Right?
DF: But you’re not on track.
JT: We are on track. We are absolutely on track.
DF: Canada remains one of the biggest emitters per capita in the world. Emissions have been going up and we are a country… under your leadership.
JT: We are track under year eliminate all to reach… meet our emissions reduction targets by 2030. And the way we’ve done that is by putting a price on pollution; is by moving forward on protecting our oceans; in moving forward on banning single use plastics; on changing behaviors; on investing in renewables. We have demonstrated real action on this. And I agree we have more to do, but the choice Canadians are facing right now is between a government that has done lots and will do lots more, or a Conservative government that has never done anything to fight climate change and is not serious about it and doesn’t even understand that fighting climate change is not just an environmental imperative, it’s an economic imperative. And that choice that people are facing right now, I mean, I give you credit for saying, “Yes, we need to do more.” Absolutely. The Conservatives are the ones who think we need to do less.
DF: So, we’re going to talk separately to the Conservative leader. But, I want to ask you about your policies and your plans. The national carbon tax has essentially fallen apart. You have not been successful in putting that.
JT: We actually have put that in place…
WATCH: 2019 Federal Election: Trudeau says government on track to meet 2030 emissions targets
JT: The pan-Canadian framework has pretty well… dissolves.
JT: How do you say it dissolves?
DF: It’s not a national carbon tax. It hasn’t been… has it been as successful as you would like it.
JT: Yes, it has and it is in place in every province across the country. The pan-Canadian framework on climate change is in place. And that’s a good place to start because if people aren’t clear on that. We brought in a price on pollution right across the country. And, yes, there are Conservative premiers who are fighting against it in provinces from the Rockies to the Bay of Fundy because they don’t think we should be moving on (inaudible). They’re spending millions in court, of taxpayer money, to try and fight that pollution pricing. But we are winning and that price on pollution is in place right across the country. Now, yes, Andrew Scheer says he will make pollution free again if he gets elected, but we moved forward on that and I’m glad to correct people on that. We have a price on pollution right across the country right now, one that returns more money in the provinces that refuse to do it than they actually payout.
DF: Getting back to your plan that was announced today. What will you do to companies who can’t meet these targets, or won’t meet these targets, or the legally binding targets?
JT: The plan we announced today features cutting in half corporate taxes on big and on small companies that are developing zero-emission technology because we know there is trillions of dollars and opportunity around the world for zero-emission technologies. And now Canada is going to be able to be a leader in generating this.
DF: And how much money would that generate that? What are we talking about?
JT: Well, we can imagine the companies that set up shop in Canada because they are paying less taxes than anywhere else in the world to make those initiatives were already been judged to be one of the easiest countries to set up environmentally-clean and cutting edge clean tech businesses. We’re continuing to create that advantage, so we create jobs and growth and economic opportunity on solutions that the world is going to need. That’s a tangible thing where we create solutions that work for Canada and work for the world as well, in contrast with others who don’t think we should be doing anything on the environment.
DF: So, I think people are hungry for details on how you’re going to do that. When would we know that? When would Canadians get that?
WATCH: ‘We need to do more’ Trudeau responds to Thunberg’s speech to world leaders on climate inaction
JT: I am very excited about this coming week where we will be laying out more pillars of our environmental plan, where we will demonstrate that we are serious about tackling climate change and really emphasize that choice that Canadians are facing between conservatives who don’t believe in acting on climate change and don’t understand that it’s not just the environment but it’s our economy that is at stake.
DF: Did you hear Greta Thunberg at the UN, her address? Did you find it… how did you find it? Was it unnerving for you, as a world leader? Was it unsettling?
JT: I found it incredibly compelling and challenging and really important. Even with everything we’ve done and everything Canadians — and particularly young Canadians because Greta is not the only one we’ve seen — we have millions of young people marching around the world, and young Canadians telling me every day we need to do more. But even with all those voices, we still have Conservative politicians at the provincial level fighting any action on climate change. And this election is pivotal for young people, and for all Canadians, on to whether we make a choice to continue and do more on fighting climate change or else we stick our heads in the sand and try and hide from the changes that are going to be challenging our kids.
DF: Another issue that’s top of mind for Canadians is health care, and you announced some plans yesterday to help Canadians find a family doctor. Thousands of Canadians as you know don’t have a family doctor. My aging parents didn’t have one when they died. I didn’t have one when I moved here from the UK. IT took years to find one. This is an issue that’s really affecting the daily life of so many Canadians. How are you going to make that happen?
JT: The same way we move forward when we signed the previous group of health accords with the provinces, just a couple of years ago, in investing in greater home care and investing in greater mental health care. We sit down with the provinces. We set clear targets. We invest more federal money in provinces so they can deliver on these targets of delivering more health care more health care practitioners to communities, particularly remote and northern communities that need them. And yes, it requires partnership with the provinces — an ability we demonstrated when we renegotiated the health accords with all 10 provinces and three territories a few years ago. We’re going to need to move forward. Obviously, there’s going to be negotiation with the provinces. And the question for Canadians is: who do they want negotiating with Andrew… with that Doug Ford and Jason Kenney? And that choice is very clear when you see what Kenney is doing, what Ford is doing, and what Scheer is proposing to do.
DF: So are you promising more family doctors?
JT: Yes. We are making a commitment that the federal money invested in health care is going to help more Canadians get… help Canadians get family doctors. Yes.
DF: So, I think that’s another one where people want detail. I don’t get how that’s going to work.
JT: Well. that is in negotiation with the provinces. That is the federal money, the federal government putting $6 billion forward as a down payment on helping the provinces reach targets to make sure that people can have access to it for family doctors and nurse practitioners, and the kind of health care supports they need.
DF: You’re promising a national pharmacare plan too. When will that be in place and how much would that cost?
JT: Well we recognize that, again, pharmacare is something we need to work on with the provinces. There are some things that a federal government can do. We’ve already put in place things that will reduce by $13 billion, over the next 10 years, costs of prescription drugs for Canadians. And it’s so effective that drug companies are taking us to court on that. We’re moving forward on creating a pan-Canadian drug agency that is going to be establishing a formulary. And we’re actually also, tangibly, moving forward on high-cost drugs for rare diseases, which we know is an incredible challenge for families facing particularly rare diseases. So, we’ve done concrete things that move towards that. The next steps are to work with the provinces to implement the recommendations and the expert panel on pharmacare. And that is what we are there to do.
DF: Yesterday, you talked about a $6-billion down payment to make this happen. What’s the real cost of this, though? There have been others who have costed it, estimated perhaps $15 billion a year. Why don’t you just be clear with Canadians? We want to do this for you, this is what it’s going to cost and here’s how we’re going to pay for it.
JT: Because we’re not the only ones who have a say in doing it. The provinces also have a responsibility to express what they want. Many provinces already have systems that are partially there. As we work together to figure out what the national framework will look like, that will become clearer. But like we did in the 2015 election, where we committed $3 billion over four years and ended up signing health accords that actually invested even more money than that over the 10-year freeze frame, these are conversations that we need to have. But the question of course for Canadians is: do they want to double down on Conservative leadership when it comes to their health care?
DF: Every single answer you give me comes back to that. It’s almost as if…
JT: But that’s the choice.
DF: So you want to set yourself up…
WATCH: 2019 Federal Election: Trudeau pressed on promise to provide access to family doctors
JT: But that is the choice that Canadians are facing.
DF: … as, you know, “I’m not going to give you a lot of detail in terms of numbers of what I’m going to cut or how much things are going to cost, but I’m going to say trust me. Don’t trust that guy.” Is that what this is…
JT: Your very first question to me today, as we were walking, was about what’s the difference between running with a record now and running in 2015. Well, what I can say now is, look at what we’ve done. Look at what we’ve been able to… look at how we delivered on those province promises to Canadians from the 2015 election, of investing $5.5 billion dollars in health care, in-home care and another $5 billion in mental health. Look at what we’ve done on actually reducing drug prices for Canadians. Look at the help that we’ve given to families with the Canada Child Benefit, with lower taxes for the middle class, and raising them on the wealthiest one per cent. Yes, there is an advantage of having a record to run on because we can say that we did these things and we’re going to be able to do the next things as well. That’s what re-election is about and that’s… we’re looking at Canadians and saying we’ve got lots more to do and we have a vision and a plan to do that. And the others? Well, they are putting forward… well, the conservatives are putting forward the exact same approach that Stephen Harper did. I mean, when they cut taxes, they cut taxes for the wealthy. That’s what you see in every little piece of their plan…
DF: Stephen Harper isn’t running in this campaign.
JT: But his platform. You ask Andrew Scheer where he differs from Stephen Harper and he will not answer you because he is exactly the same frame of tax breaks to the wealthy in the hopes of creating growth.
DF: So, with respect, let’s talk about you. And not he past Conservative government.
JT: But it’s still the choice.
DF: Four years ago, your campaign was about sunny ways. You promised Canadians you would do politics differently. In the four years you’ve been office, you were found guilty twice of ethics violations. What have you learned from that?
JT: That we continue to have more to do to demonstrate the kinds of transparency that Canadians…
DF: We or you?
JT: We as a government…
DF: You keep talking “we” But these ethics violations were… were you.
DF: I understand that, but the ethics commissioner said you pushed too far… for partisan reasons.
JT: I accept the ethics commissioner’s report but I disagreed with his conclusions. But, I fully accept his report and therefore we’ll move forward in measures to make sure that no future government has that… has that conflict. But I will not apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs because that is what Canadians expect me to do to fight for the public interest.
DF: You lost two female cabinet ministers who were prominent and star members of your cabinet, very well respected, because they said they lost faith you. What did you learn from that?
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JT: That’s… that is a question for them, as to why they left. What I learned from it…
DF: No. When they left you. When they were they are no longer part of your cabinet — I know you can argue about they were kicked or not — that relationship was severed and they said they lost faith in you as a leader. What did you learn from that? Was there any soul searching?
JT: There absolutely was and we already brought in ways of connecting and communicating and dealing earlier on with people who have concerns. There was… there is a need to keep a better flow of communications within an organization and that’s one of the things that we’ve learned from.
WATCH: Federal Election 2019: Trudeau announces Liberal plan to push Canada to net-zero emissions by 2050
DF: Getting back to the last campaign compared to this one. You promised a lot of things then and some of them you’ve delivered, some of them you’ve not. The first one electoral reform, balancing the budget meeting climate targets. I know you argue that you’re on course. Others say that we’re not where we should be.
JT: We are going to doing our climate targets.
DF: … Doing politics differently. And you’ve been, as I said, two ethics violations. Why should Canadians trust you now?
JT: Because we made a commitment to Canadians to grow the middle class and help people working hard to join it. And we’ve delivered on that. We’ve seen Canadians create…
F: But what’s different about the leader you are today compared to the leader you were four years ago?
JT: Every single day in this job, I learn more. I learn better ways to do things. I grow in my capacity to serve Canadians. And that is something that that I feel every single day in our ability to do even more. And that’s reflected in the ambitious platform we’re putting forward, with a vision for the next four years that is going to continue to take us in that right direction. And that’s… that’s the choice people are facing: do we continue to move forward or do we go back.
DF: So, I think at the ballot box for a lot of people it comes down to when the two candidates… the two front runners are neck-and-neck, although the polls today are suggesting you’re falling behind a little bit, that it comes down to who do we trust to run this country. That’s a fundamental question about who you are as a leader and not just your policies, right?
JT: It’s also a question about who has the better vision for the future, who gets where the country is going and has the team and the capacity to deliver on that. And that’s why I’m so excited about contrasting, yes, my vision with the vision of the Conservatives that do not have a clear vision for moving this country forward, whether it’s on things like banning assault weapons. They want to weaken gun control; we are going to strengthen gun control. They don’t think we need to move forward on fighting for a cleaner future and protecting the environment; I know that’s the only way to create jobs and a better future for our kids. And when it comes to taxes, we are all about lowering taxes for the middle class and for people working hard to join it; they are actually giving tax breaks to the wealthiest because that’s what they’ve always done this Conservatives.
DF: We’re running out of time is a couple of quick questions I want to get you. Bill C-21. You have been sitting on the fence about that one, saying let’s leave it to Quebec. Critics call it “legislated discrimination.” Can you make it clear to Canadians what you think about that legislation?
WATCH: 2019 Federal Election: Trudeau speaks out against Quebec’s controversial Bill 21
JT: I have made it very clear many times I disagree with that legislation. I do not think we should be legitimizing discrimination against anyone anywhere in this country. And I’ve said it to Quebeckers, I’ve said it to all Canadians. But at the same time, I know that the charter is working the way it needs. Quebeckers have taken that legislation to court and are defending the charter, and we are watching it as it goes. But I am the only federal leader who has not said that I am never… that I’m closing the door to intervening later. This is too important. This is a matter of fundamental freedoms for people and I don’t think the federal government should close the door on that.
DF: Why don’t you just say I will intervene?
JT: Because I haven’t made that determination yet. I am watching Quebeckers defend their Charter rights in court.
DF: Let me ask you about equalization payments. (Alberta) Premier (Jason) Kenney has said he wants equalization reform. and that he won’t call for it no matter who is elected prime minister. Are you open to that idea?
JT: We renewed the equalization formula as it currently stands based on a year worth of conversations with the premiers, conversations with the provinces. We renewed a formula that was actually created, as it is now, by Jason Kenney and the government he was part of. So, I think it’s playing a lot of politics right now to be so upset about something that he set up for political gain right now. I am going to continue to defend the system we have in place because it works. And, quite frankly, if Andrew Scheer disagrees with Jason Kenney or agrees with him, he needs to answer that question as well because I’m going to continue to stand up for the national interest.
DF: So, taking the partisan stuff out of it, which is what I’m always trying to do, do you believe that the equalization formula as it stands now is fair…
DF: … to everyone in the country?
JT: Yes, that is why we renewed it. That’s…
DF: And it’ll stand the way it is?
JT: It’ll stand for the next for the rest of the five years that we renegotiated, with support from all the provinces, just a year or so ago.
DF: One final question about opioids. Thousands of people are dying across this country, have died and continue to die, because of opioid overdoses in all walks of life. The Green Party has said they will decriminalize drug possession. Are you open to that idea?
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JT: We are moving forward on things that actually work, whether it’s safe consumption, safe supply, harm reduction. We have demonstrated that we’re moving forward on an evidence-based process which involves front more funding for frontline workers, more addiction treatments, more supports for communities. There’s lots more to do. We have done a lot. We’re going to continue to do the things that work.
DF: Specifically, are you open to the idea of decriminalizing possession?
JT: Right now… right now we are focused on safe consumption and harm reduction.
DF: So, that’s…
JT: But, again, that’s another question for the Conservatives, why they want to turn back safe consumption and harm reduction. This election is a choice…
DF: But I’m not asking…
JT: No. We’re not… we’re not looking at full decriminalization at all right now. There are other things that we are doing that having a big impact and we’re going make decisions based on science. And, again, it goes back to the choice that Canadians are facing: do we continue to base our decisions on science and saving lives, with things like safe consumption, or do we go backwards as the Conservatives are proposing.
DF: And one more question: you’re taking a lot of heat for not costing your platform.
JT: Our platform will be absolutely fully costed.
JT: And we are working… when we release our full platform very shortly.
DF: Very shortly? In the next week?
JT: Very shortly.
DF: You can’t expect Canadians to believe all the promises. Nothing comes for free, right? You need to put a price tag on it.
JT: We demonstrated in 2015 an incredibly ambitious platform that was fully costed. We are doing exactly that again. And this time we get to work with the PBO because we made a change that ensured that every party could work with the PBO, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, to make sure that their platforms are properly costed.
DF: All right. We’ll look for that. Mr. Trudeau thank you so much.
JT: Always a pleasure, Dawna. Thank you.