What Justin Trudeau Doesn’t Regret in the SNC-Lavalin Affair
Last month I sat down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for an extended interview, the first since his government had been rocked by the resignations and political turmoil created by its handling of SNC-Lavalin’s criminal prosecution.
As I wrote in the resulting profile, Mr. Trudeau’s political fortunes may have been severely battered over the past few months, but he’s not acting like a person who’s been broken, and he’s certainly not apologizing for doing what he contends was right.
[Read: A Battered but Unbowed Justin Trudeau Vows to Stay the Course in Canada]
As is usually the case, I couldn’t squeeze everything from the interview into the profile. This week’s newsletter features some additional highlights from our conversation. Some of Mr. Trudeau’s comments have been edited for brevity and clarity.
—Mr. Trudeau on what mistakes he made in the SNC-Lavalin affair:
One of the things I don’t regret, even though a lot of people criticized me for it, is having taken as much time as I did to get to an eventual decision.
I talked to a number of my predecessors from different parties who expressed how quickly they would turf out of caucus someone who was so openly antagonistic.
But I really believed that doing politics differently means trying to reconcile differences and trying to hold together people who do agree on the big things. And I spent weeks trying to figure out a constructive path forward. Old-school politics would have been to say: “O.K., I’m going show strength as a leader, make a decision and move on.” We gave lots of room for lots of airing of different perspectives and that, I think, is consistent with doing politics differently.
—On criticisms that he can no longer claim to offer a fresh approach to politics:
I think in terms of the team we have within caucus, they have come through this and we are united as a team more than we ever were.
There’s lots of things that we’re doing to try and make sure it never happens again. But it’s part of doing things differently that you are learning new mechanisms for handling internal conflict like this.
We continued to do really big things while the media and opposition were being distracted with this internal disagreement that has been invented and amplified. We’re going to stay focused on the things that matter, and I have a tremendous amount of faith in Canadians.
—On whether he was offended by President Trump’s personal attacks:
I don’t take things personally. My job is to stand up for Canadians and I will do that regardless of what outbursts happen. I’ve been in the public eye too long to feel like I can be defined by what anyone else says about me.
—On relations with the United States:
It’s not a terrible situation. We’re not at a particular low in the relationship. I still pick up the phone and talk to President Trump every few weeks on any number of issues and we have a very positive relationship.
We’re very different in our approaches and in our ideologies. But we also know the relationship between the two countries is bigger than any one person and, because of that, we get along as fine as we need to.
—On anticipating the end of the election campaign:
It’s going to be a fun year. Simple rule of politics: Whoever is actually having more fun, Canadians respond to better. We’re doing good things, we’re actually having fun. We went through these more difficult moments, and as a team and party we managed to stay positive.
I’m happy about coming to work every day. I’m excited about the challenges we face. This is what democracy is supposed to be: a contrast of ideas and a choice between different visions for this country. And with what we’ve been able to achieve and what we’re continuing to stay focused on, despite some noise.
Finally, a bit of trivia. The closing of Parliament’s Centre Block for renovations meant that Mr. Trudeau has moved into a different office in the West Block. It’s been widely reported that Mr. Trudeau’s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, used the same office when he was justice minister. But Mr. Trudeau said that he learned from an aunt that his grandfather, James Sinclair, also occupied the high-ceilinged space during the 1950s, when he was fisheries minister.
In Conversation With Wesley Morris
Having survived a “Game of Thrones” immersion, Wesley Morris, a critic at large for The New York Times and the co-host of “Still Processing,” will join the CBC broadcaster and writer Amanda Parris in Toronto on May 28. We have a limited number of free tickets for Canada Letter readers. If you’re interested, please RSVP at this link.
—Without making any substantive concessions, Canada cut a deal that will mean an end to Mr. Trump’s tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum exports.
—The charges against the Canadians Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman, are vague. But they have escalated the tensions between Canada and China that began to rise with the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer in Vancouver.
—Conrad M. Black, whose many books include one flattering to Mr. Trump, can travel to the United States again thanks to a presidential pardon.
—Canada missed a Phippines deadline to take back its garbage from that country. While President Rodrigo Duterte didn’t declare war, as he earlier threatened, he did ramp up the pressure on Canada this week.
Around The Times
— Gen X is getting older, and Styles has put together a package of articles evaluating the loves, hates and myths of an often overlooked generation.
—“Getting pregnant is the kiss of death for a female athlete,” Phoebe Wright, a runner sponsored by Nike from 2010 through 2016, says in a provocative article in Opinion about corporate sponsors and motherhood.
—Andrew Higgins made his way to Kyrgyzstan, where against seemingly insurmountable odds a community of German-speaking Mennonite Christians has managed to hang on.