Montreal

The Liverpool House Summit: What did Obama and Trudeau talk about?

It will go down in history as the Liverpool House Summit, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former U.S. president Barack Obama sat down to discuss … well, we have no idea what they discussed.

A surprise dinner between the ex-president and the PM breeds speculation

Former U.S. president Barack Obama (left) dined with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Montreal's Liverpool House on Tuesday evening. (Justin Trudeau/Twitter)

It will go down in history as the Liverpool House Summit, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former U.S. president Barack Obama sat down to discuss … well, we have no idea what they discussed. 

But we do know the pair met for dinner at a trendy Montreal restaurant, Liverpool House, one of a string of establishments owned by celebrity chef David McMillan. 

Obama had been speaking at Palais des Congrès, a downtown convention centre, Tuesday evening. Not long after, a heavy police presence was spotted on Notre Dame Street.

A Chevy Suburban with tinted windows rolled up in front of the restaurant, a few burly men with earpieces hopped out, and then Obama appeared, offered a quick wave to the crowd, then ducked inside.  

Trudeau tweeted a picture from the restaurant Tuesday night. Both he and Obama have their shirt sleeves rolled up, the ex-president striking the relaxed posture he seems to strike often these days now that he's not, you know, running the free world.

Foreign policy for dessert?

Trudeau's tweet suggests the two may have talked about youth engagement in politics.

A witness to the meeting, chef and owner David McMillan, said they spoke alone for about 30 minutes.

"It seemed lighthearted and funny," McMillan told CBC News the morning after the summit. 

"It didn't seem like world affairs were being discussed."

But the timing of the meeting is conspicuous.

Earlier that day, Trudeau's foreign affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland, delivered a major foreign policy speech.

It didn't mention President Donald Trump by name, but she made it clear that Canada would be taking a decidedly different approach to world affairs. 

Freeland rejected many of the U.S. president's policies, including the withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, imposing protectionist trade policies, and closing the nation's doors to refugees.

"The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course," she said.
'He listened carefully to what we had to say,' foreign affairs minister says of meetings with U.S. president 1:01

The 'bro hug'

Freeland's speech echoed many of the themes that Obama raised in his own speech in Montreal. 

He praised Canada's leadership on a variety of issues, including immigration and climate change.

"It's important for us to establish processes to make sure that we reaffirm that we are nations of immigrants, that it creates dynamism in our economies, that it strengthens rather than weakens us," Obama told crowd of 6,000 at the Montreal convention centre.

"You've done a good job of that in Canada, and you should be congratulated for that."

Of course, whether Trudeau and Obama talked about any of this is pure speculation.

But around 10 p.m. ET, the two emerged from the restaurant, Obama offering the prime minister one of his trademark "bro hugs" reserved for friends, and allies.
Following former U.S. president Barack Obama's speech in Montreal, he had dinner at a trendy restaurant with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The two shared a "bro hug" before Obama left. 0:25

About the Author

Jonathan Montpetit is a journalist with CBC Montreal.

With files from Kathleen Harris

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