Sip n' Skimm with Justin Trudeau

PUBLISHED AUG 31, 2017

Labor Day – the holiday created to honor and celebrate workers – is coming in hot. America’s neighbor to the North celebrates too. theSkimm stopped by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office for a Sip n’ Skimm on the tense NAFTA talks, the gender-pay gap, and the thing that’s surprised him most about working with President Trump.

We heard you like Labatt 50.

Look at this, yeah.

So we brought it just for you. We know it’s the middle of the workday, so you can’t drink, but...

I won’t drink too much, but I will ‘cheers.’

Cheers.

There we go.

So let’s get into it. Your cabinet is very diverse, with an equal number of men and women. That’s a huge accomplishment. But let’s talk about the wage gap and what you’re doing to combat that.

When we first came forward with a gender-parity Cabinet, everyone said ‘Oh, you know, Canada’s leading on women’s issues.’ I said, ‘actually, we’re really far below where we’d like to be on wage equity, on pay equity.’ And there’s a lot to do. We’re bringing in pay equity legislation to make sure that there’s equal pay for work of equal value. We’ll be doing that next year. But in the meantime, we’re looking at a lot of things that we also needed to do: moving forward on childcare, on maternal leave issues, bringing forward the Canada Child Benefit, which is monthly tax-free checks to families for their kids to low-income, middle-income families to support with the costs of raising their children. We know that increased share of the burden always falls to women in terms of that, so it’s about helping people have the options and choices, whether it’s good childcare or what, to be able to get into the workforce and make those choices. But there’s a lot more work to do, and we’re working on it.

Let’s touch on minimum wage. There’s a big push by some Canadians to move minimum wage to $15 an hour. And your administration has said, ‘not just yet.’ Why?

A couple of reasons. One’s really practical: the federal government only handles minimum wage for federally-regulated industries, like airlines and banks and telecommunications, where there’s not a lot of minimum-wage players – sorry, workers. On the provincial side, we have a lot of provinces who are going to move toward the $15, and we’re very interested in watching how that works. It’s not something that we’re closed to, but it’s not something that we’re moving on right now, no.

What is NAFTA?

NAFTA is the North American Free Trade Agreement. It started in the late ‘80s as the Canada-US Trade Agreement, and then Mexico joined in in the early ‘90s. It’s been – Basically, when you reduce barriers to trade, consumers get better prices on a wider range of goods, and companies have to get more competitive to succeed in larger markets. It’s something that creates innovation, creates opportunity. The reverse of free trade, protectionism and building walls, can feel good to protect your own little corner and protect your own companies, but they don’t innovate and they don’t get more competitive on a world stage [...]. I think one of the things that Canada knows is that because we’re a smaller country and population than the United States, a success for us is one in which it’s a good deal for Canada and the United States, and for Mexico, because then we all end up prospering. It’s not a zero-sum game, it’s a win-win-win.

President Trump has been very vocal about the need to renegotiate NAFTA, possibly even pulling out of the deal. Where are there disagreements?

NAFTA’s a deal that’s been around for over two decades. It’s been updated a dozen times over this, so there’s nothing huge about making sure that it keeps up with the times [...]. There’s a lot that we know now that we didn’t know 25 years ago that should be in it, and we’re very happy to do that. The other piece that is really important to me is making sure that – and it’s actually important to the American administration, because President Trump got elected on it – how to make sure that people who are worried about their jobs, about their future, who feel that growth hasn’t worked for them, become more confident about their ability to support their family and for their kids to get jobs in the future decades [...]. There’s also things we can do around NAFTA – looking at labor mobility, looking at labor standards and costs and expectations; a lot of questions about Mexican wages and how there are jobs flowing to different places across NAFTA – that we can address by improving outcomes for workers and improving confidence for people in the middle class.

Where do you think that you and the US are farthest apart on NAFTA?

I don’t think we’re far apart on what we want out of it. What everyone wants is better opportunities for our citizens in our countries. I think some of the policy prescriptions between President Trump and myself are a little divergent, but I know if we stay focused on outcomes – I mean, NAFTA has created millions of good jobs for the middle class on both sides of the border over the past 25 years. There’s a lot more that we can do, and we need to make sure that we’re responding to some of the current pressures and challenges. But I look at the North American market as a tremendous opportunity to lead the world in shared success for everyone within us. That we should be building something strong and taking on the world with it, instead of quibbling over small issues that tend to get magnified. I don’t think we’re that far apart on a lot of things, and we’re going to have good negotiations on this.

If you could change President Trump’s mind about one issue, what would it be?

That’s a fun thought experiment to engage in around a dinner table – but as a prime minister, my job is not to try and influence or opine on what a leader of a different country should be doing. My job is to do the best possible job for my country, and I wouldn’t want someone else telling me what I should be doing in Canada and telling me what I should do. I expect him to be standing up for what’s in the best interests of his citizens, and I’m going to work hard to stand up for what’s in the best interests of my citizens.

Has there been anything that’s surprised you about President Trump?

It may be surprising to some that he’s...he’s authentic in that the person he is on-camera, in public, is very true to the person he is in private. There’s a consistency there that one can work with.

You’ve gotten criticism for advocating policies to counteract global warming, but also being champion of oil pipelines that create jobs. How do you focus on job creation while also being environmentally conscious?

That’s the big question. It’s very easy, politically, to pick one side of the equation, and say ‘we’re for the environment’ and forget about development. Or, ‘we’re going to focus on the economy’ and ignore the environment. The fact is – most people get it – you can’t build a strong economy for the future unless you are protecting the environment. And you can’t actually protect the environment unless people are comfortable that they’re going to have food on their tables to feed their kids the next week and the next year. So we need to be smart about doing that altogether [...]. So if we are still going to be dependent on driving cars and oil and gas, what is the most responsible way to move that oil and gas? Certainly trucks or rail have caused terrible accidents. Pipelines can be done in a safer way. Now, people are worried about spills, and I get that. That’s why we’ve invested billions of dollars in an oceans protection plan that will have better responses, better protections. And doing both things at the same time is actually what most people expect.

Are you wearing any interesting socks today?

Uh... [pause as he checks]

Oh, these are good!

Yes, I’m wearing West Coast Haida socks, so Pacific Northwest native art.

Did you ever think your socks would be a thing?

You know, it’s funny that it has become a bit of a thing. I’m not someone who naturally wears suits and ties. It’s not something that I’m happy with – give me jeans and a t-shirt.

We appreciated the casual look today.

For me to be able to find a way to express myself, without being zany novelty ties, was important. I said, ‘well, why don’t I just wear cool socks?’


Sign up for the Daily Skimm
and join the millions who already wake up with us.