Pubdate: Sat, 04 Jun 2016
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2016 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Paul Samyn
Page: A6


Justin Trudeau sits down with Free Press editor Paul Samyn to talk
about urgent legislation, First Nations, marijuana... and Stephen Harper

PRIME Minister Justin Trudeau sat down with Winnipeg Free Press editor
Paul Samyn for an exclusive interview Thursday.

The event, held at the Winnipeg Free Press News Cafe, was a fulfilment
of promise Trudeau had made to the newspaper.

"I was here a few years ago, and one of the promises I made - and it's
great when a politician can keep promises - was to come back," said
the casually dressed Trudeau.

"I'm glad to be here because these kinds of forums, of exchanges, of
conversations, are essential for democracy to stay helpful and healthy."

In attendance were students from Winnipeg's Children of the Earth High
School, which marked its 25th anniversary Friday. Trudeau has made it
clear in the past and on Thursday issues involving indigenous youth
remain close to his heart.

Trudeau's Liberals swept into power last October and are still
enjoying a honeymoon with Canadian voters. But there are challenges on
the horizon.

SAMYN: It's clear Canadians voted for change, and it's clear you're a
different prime minister than Stephen Harper. But how are those
differences making a difference in the lives of everyday Canadians?

TRUDEAU: One of the things that was at the heart of Mr. Harper's
economic policy was an idea if you give tax breaks and advantages to
the wealthiest Canadians, they will go around creating jobs and
profits that will benefit all of society. That's trickle-down
economics, and it has never worked. So, one of the foundational things
that we did that was different, the very first bill that we put
forward in the House of Commons, was to lower taxes for the middle
class by asking the wealthiest Canadians to pay a little more. That
kicked in as of Jan. 1, so middle-class Canadians have a little more
money on their paycheques than they had before.

The second big difference that we're going to be bringing in as of
July is the Canada child benefit, which is a monthly child benefit
cheque that doesn't go to the wealthiest families and goes instead in
larger amounts to low-income families and middle-class families,
because that's where we need to be investing if you want to grow the
economy. When the middle class has money to invest, to grow the
economy, when people have an opportunity to join the middle class with
good education, with financial support, with a proper process and a
government that's concerned with their well-being, we create an
economy in which everyone can succeed and everyone does well.

SAMYN: Across the street, as you know, is a boxing club. I'm not going
to use that to talk about the fisticuffs that nearly sparked in the
House of Commons a couple weeks back, but rather to talk about the
government's majority muscle and how it's been used. How it's been
used on time allocation. How it's been used in some of the things that
have been happening in committees. As it relates to electoral reform.
As it relates to C-14, the assisted death legislation, and as well as

Air Canada Act (Bill C-10). Those are things that you and the Liberals
railed about when the Conservatives did it. Why are you doing much of
the same?

TRUDEAU: Actually, we're not. We got elected on a platform to get
things done for Canadians. And, among other things, the Supreme Court
tasked the Parliament of Canada to bring forward a framework for
assisted dying.

The previous government did absolutely nothing on that for 10 months
and then, when we came into power, we had two months to get it done.
We turned to the Supreme Court and said: "Could we get a little more
time to be able to listen to Canadians, to work on this important
issue?" (The Supreme Court agreed to an extension - it expires on June

Canadians expect we have a process that actually allows Canadians who
are seeking death with dignity to get the kind of medical help they
need. At the same time, Canadians expect government to protect our
most vulnerable - and getting that balance right is extremely
important. Now, we are very much hopeful we are going to hit that June
6 deadline, because, lacking a framework, Canadians are at risk. So,
we put forward a clear series of proposals or processes; we worked to
listen to Canadians.

There are folks, to our (political) left, who don't think the bill
goes far enough - that we should be more permissive in terms of
medical assistance in dying. There are folks, to our right, who think
the bill goes too far and we should be less permissive on medical
assistance in dying and both of those parties are trying to slow down
the process. A great example is the Conservatives had the same people
get up over and over again to try and drag out the clock, while we're
very aware that we have a deadline that we have to try and hit.

We've just sent the bill to the Senate. We're hopeful the Senate is
going to do it responsibly, but do it quickly, so we can make sure
Canadians are being protected. But, Canadians have very little
patience for the kinds of partisan games that unfortunately opposition
parties have used from time to time. Now, this is not to say we have
been without our challenges, and that's why one of the things we did
just today (Thursday) was announce that on electoral reform, which
we've always said is important to listen to Canadians and to involve
all parliamentarians, we've agreed with opposition parties that, fine,
maybe Liberals shouldn't have a majority on the electoral reform
committee. We said: 'You know what? Let's give the majority to
opposition members so we can have a quality discussion about how we
can improve our electoral system.' Those are the kinds of things that
Canadians expect us to do. And that's exactly what we're doing.

SAMYN: There seems to be no reason to rush C-10. For maintenance
workers here in Manitoba who are hopeful they could get those
high-paying jobs back, they're watching this thing steamroll ahead.
The Manitoba government doesn't want it moving ahead, the Quebec
government doesn't want it moving ahead, and they're worried that
what's happening here is something that, again, is going to favour
Quebec and Quebec interests over those in Manitoba. So, why is it
moving as quickly as it's moving?

TRUDEAU: This idea that there is an unlimited amount of time to pass
legislation in the House is simply not true. The opposition parties
certainly have no interest in us even passing legislation that they
wholly agree with because governments getting things done that people
approve of is difficult for an opposition to run against in the next
election. The aerospace industry is extremely important for us - and
we were able to secure a return of 150 high-paying jobs to here,
Manitoba, in the aerospace sector. Now, a number of years ago you lost
400 jobs in that sector and that's something we're definitely working
forward to getting back. One hundred and fifty new jobs is a step in
the right direction, but, you're right, it's not enough.

And that's why we continue to work with the aerospace industry, with
companies like Air Canada on one side, Bombardier on (the) other, to
try and encourage investments here and the kinds of high-quality jobs
that Manitobans and Winnipeggers have demonstrated time and time again
they are more than capable and competitive in terms of filling. And
we're going to continue working on that, but there aren't any
overnight, quick successes or quick fixes. We've been very closely
engaged with the Manitoba government, with our Manitoba MPs and we're
moving in the right direction.

SAMYN: Last week when you were in Winnipeg (for the Liberals'
convention), you asked your party to give thanks to Stephen Harper for
his service to Canadians. One member of your party, Bob Rae, found
that a little hard to stomach. But it was something that we haven't
really seen in Canada that often. And I'm wondering, is that an effort
on your part to not become as polarizing a figure as Stephen Harper
was as prime minister, and, for that matter, as polarizing as your
father was when he was prime minister?

TRUDEAU: I think very few people understand as well as I do the impact
that being prime minister or holding public office can have on one's
family. I grew up in it, and now I'm subjecting my kids to that. There
are things my family has to give up so that I can do the job that I
do. And regardless of what you think of someone's policies, I think
it's very Canadian that we do have a level of respect for the work and
the office that people hold.

SAMYN: It's fair to say the planned legalization of marijuana has
created a cloud of controversy. A number of pot dispensaries have
popped up, and the application of the law is extremely uneven
depending on the city and the province. What responsibility does your
government take for that confusion and how can you clear that air?

TRUDEAU: I've been very, very clear from the beginning on this. The
first time I've ever talked about our platform to legalize and not
decriminalize marijuana - and there's a big difference between the two
- - is I'm in favour of legalization and not in favour of
decriminalization alone, which is a position the NDP and now,
apparently, the Conservatives are taking. I'll make it very clear
because there are two things that convinced me that legalization of
marijuana, of changing our marijuana regime are necessary.

One of them is underage Canadians have incredibly easy access to
marijuana. In a UN study of 29 advanced developing countries, the No.
1 country for underage access to marijuana in the world was Canada.
It's easier for our kids to get their hands on pot than anything else.
You can talk about how marijuana may be less harmful than alcohol or
cigarettes in some ways, and there's studies to prove that, but there
is no question that the developing brain is more vulnerable to the
harmful effects of marijuana. So my approach is to say if we legalize
marijuana, if we start controlling points of sale, the demand to show
proper ID, the same way we do for alcohol or cigarettes, will make it
more difficult for young people to get access.

And the second thing is that our current system provides billions upon
billions of dollars of revenue to criminal organizations, street gangs
and gun-runners - it's a massive source of revenue for violence in our
streets. So legalizing, getting the point of sale out of the hands of
criminals, controlling who we sell it to, will make our system safer
for Canadians.

Decriminalization does nothing to control the age of who's buying it
or who actually gets to make money from selling it. And that's what I
have talked about from the beginning. So until we bring in a legalized
regime, the current laws on marijuana apply and should be applied. The
fact that we are going to make changes to remove the money from
criminal organizations and protect our kids needs to be done properly
and can't be done randomly or organically the way people are trying to
get it done now.

SAMYN: On the points of sale - where do you want to go buy your legal
marijuana? Shoppers Drug Mart or a Crown-owned agency?

TRUDEAU: The fact is, in Canada, the federal government doesn't
necessarily decide that on its own. Liquor control is done by the
provinces. So, it'll be up to the federal government to create a
framework to work with the provinces to figure out what exactly is
going to work for different jurisdictions across the country. That's
the only responsible way to go about doing this, and, like we said
from the very beginning, we're going to do this responsibly.

SAMYN: One last cannabis query. You admitted to smoking pot when it
was illegal as an MP. When it's legalized, will you smoke it as a
prime minister?

TRUDEAU: I don't think so. As I've said many times, I am not someone
who has a history of using drugs. I lived in Whistler (B.C.) for a few
years and was certainly surrounded with a lot of friends who did. But
it was just never my thing. I don't drink very much. I don't smoke,
never have. I don't even drink coffee because I don't like the jolt
that caffeine gives me. And when I told people I don't drink coffee,
it made far more of an uproar than it did when I told people I once
smoked a cigarette, once smoked a joint. So, the fact is it's my
choice that I not do that and we should respect adults' choices, to
make their own decisions.

SAMYN: I want to talk about the aboriginal issues. You've talked about
a new relationship with Canada's First Nations, but in talking about

TRUDEAU: They're not Canada's First Nations. They're First Nations.
They're indigenous peoples.

SAMYN: Fair enough. You've also, though, raised expectations. The
question for you is have you raised expectations beyond what Canada
has the fiscal capacity to deal with and to deal with in a time frame
that is going to ensure

that those who are listening, hoping and praying those promises come
true, what happens when they don't?

TRUDEAU: A lot of people have talked about the Kelowna Accord that was
signed by the previous Liberal government in 2005 - and that
represented a $5-billion investment that got cancelled as soon as the
government changed in 2006. It represents 10 lost years of investments
that were not made in infrastructure, in schools, in social services,
in housing, in water treatment, in all sorts of things.

But in our budget we put in $8.6 billion over the coming years into
indigenous issues, everything from education to water to housing to a
broad range of infrastructure so that we could renew the relationship.
And one of the things that I've always said, and I think one of the
things people know on this, is there is no quick fix. It's not going
to be suddenly OK.

I think we understand the challenges we're facing were created largely
by Canada and the Canadian government over decades - indeed centuries
- - and are going to take years to turn around. But I do know, and I
feel this every time I have a conversation with an indigenous person
right across the country, that there is a tremendous opportunity to
start meaningfully down the path of getting it right.

That means moving towards parity so indigenous students have the same
kind of funding in their schools as non-indigenous Canadians. That
access to health care is even right across the country, including
indigenous communities. That we start dealing with the boil-water
advisories that make Canada seem like a Third World developing country
instead of the advanced economy that it is. There are so many things
we have to get right as building blocks for fixing a relationship
that, yes, we have to move forward meaningfully on, but it's a
challenge that will outlive my time as prime minister, no matter how
successful I am over the coming years.

This is one (area) that Canada needs to engage in. The one thing that
inspires and reassures me just about more than anything else is
actually talking to young, indigenous individuals and leaders such as
yourselves here today from the Children of the Earth High School. You
are part of the solution and you have been waiting individually and
collectively a long time for a government that was willing to say:
"Let us be partners the way that our ancestors committed to. Let us
share the responsibilities we have here. Let us walk forward together
and let us build opportunities and success for everyone who shares
this extraordinary land and that, unfortunately, has not been
adequately said or built up over the past years." That's something
we're getting started on.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity)
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