Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will discuss Canadian values and jobs with U.S. President Donald Trump when the pair meets in person for the first time Monday in Washington.
During a visit to Iqaluit Thursday, Trudeau was asked whether he would raise the controversial U.S. travel ban with Trump, which affects people from seven majority-Muslim countries, as well as all refugees.
"As everyone in Canada knows, I have two important responsibilities that stand out in the way we engage our neighbours to the south. The first is, of course, to highlight Canadian values and principles and the things that keep our country strong," he said.
"The second responsibility that I have, which we will very much be engaged in, is creating jobs and opportunity for Canadian citizens through the continued close integration on both sides of the border."
Conservative MP Gerry Ritz said Trudeau should avoid the temptation to go "overboard" in confronting the new president, despite the feedback he may be getting on social media.
In an email statement, Kate Purchase, Trudeau's director of communications, said the leaders "look forward to discussing the unique relationship between Canada and the United States of America and how we can continue to work hard for middle-class Canadians and Americans, together."
Strong Canada-US ties help the middle class in both our countries. Monday, I'll meet @realDonaldTrump in DC to keep working for that goal.— @JustinTrudeau
White House press secretary Sean Spicer echoed the statement during his daily briefing in Washington on Thursday.
"The president looks forward to a constructive conversation and strengthening the deep relationship between the United States and Canada," he said.
Three of Trudeau's ministers — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Finance Minister Bill Morneau — have made trips to Washington this week to lay the groundwork for these first face-to-face talks.
"We've found [our U.S. counterparts] to be interested, engaged, understanding the depth of the relationship and the importance of the relationship to the United States and Canada, so we want to build on that," Morneau told reporters, speaking at Georgetown University.
"I think Americans intuitively understand the strength of the relationship."
Ritz said he doesn't expect any big announcements out of the Washington trip, as the prime minister starts to build a relationship with the new president.
"This won't be the Trudeau family reunion at the White House — this'll be a little different," Ritz told reporters after question period, referring to the state dinner Barack Obama hosted for Trudeau last year.
Despite Trudeau's publicly chummy relationship with Obama, Ritz said he didn't feel it had benefited Canada.
"I didn't see much bromance in the last [bilateral relationship]," he said. "We lost Keystone XL, we didn't get any border access, we didn't get anything. The bromance didn't follow through; it was more of a one-hit date."
NDP MP Nathan Cullen said Monday's visit will be "incredibly important" for Trudeau, suggesting that the prime minister will need to stand up for Canadian values and economic interests, such as the ongoing softwood lumber dispute.
"I think he has to speak truth to power," Cullen said. "Simply lying down and hoping that he doesn't notice us is not the strategy to use with Mr. Trump. We've seen people try to placate him in the past — other Republicans, Democrats — it doesn't work.
"This man has proven himself to be a bully repeatedly in his private and his political dealings. How do you deal with a bully? You simply have to be firm with them."
'Listen a lot'
Ritz said some of Trudeau's recent Twitter comments related to the U.S. president's executive order on immigration have been "bordering on snide."
"It's always been good politics to have a fight with our southern neighbour, but at the end of the day, that's our major trading partner. We have to work with them on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour business."
Ritz advised Trudeau to emphasize the importance of Canada to the American economy, tread gently and be aware that Trump appears to have a "very thin skin."
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"Listen a lot, smile and nod," he said. "Make a point if it's there to be made, but don't go overboard on pushing back. This is not the time or place to do that."
Cullen said Trudeau needs to address Americans leadership and that it's not the time for Trudeau to "apologize in some Canadian way."
"Our message to Americans, beyond Mr. Trump, is this relationship is too important to jeopardize with a tweet sent at three o'clock in the morning because [Trump] feels offended at something that he saw on television."