Justin Trudeau keeps focus on economy as G20 shifts attention to security

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is sticking to the topics that won him the election — investing in infrastructure and communities — most of the other leaders attending the G20 summit are focused on something far darker in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

Prime minister attends 1st summit without a security adviser but with a surplus of goodwill

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, poses for a selfie with a delegate during the G20 summit in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya, Turkey, on Sunday. (Ercin Top/Pool/Reuters)

It appears Justin Trudeau's appeal isn't limited to the Canadians who gave his Liberals a majority government in the October election. Uh-uh. Not at all.

The prime minister found himself swarmed by selfie takers — young and old — after a speech Sunday morning in advance of the G20 summit in Turkey.

It was an enthusiastic response after a speech that, frankly, he could just as well have made during the recent election campaign back home.

Trudeau spoke of the importance of investing in infrastructure and communities. He talked about building an inclusive economy that removes barriers to opportunity.

"We need to understand that the topics discussed here at the G20, of investment, inclusively, [are] going to be at the centre of the solutions we have [been] bringing forward."

But while Trudeau is sticking with this "sunny ways" message, most of the other leaders attending the summit are focused on something far darker in the aftermath of the deadly attacks in Paris on Friday, which left nearly 130 people dead and scores of others with critical wounds.

Justin Trudeau meets with world leaders

7 years ago
Duration 1:09
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with leaders attending the G20 summit in Turkey

A leaked draft of the leaders' communiqué obtained by Reuters says the leaders of the world's 20 most powerful economies will agree to step up border controls and aviation security in the wake of the attacks.

They also condemned the attacks, for which ISIS has claimed responsibility, as "heinous" and said they remain united in the battle against terrorism.

Canada obviously signed on to the statement.

But in his public appearances in Antalya, Trudeau prefers to stick to the topics that won him the election.

"Confident, optimistic countries should always be willing to invest in their own future," he said in his speech on Sunday.

Paris dominates discussion

Canadians have heard this before, just as they've witnessed what followed Trudeau's speech as people flocked around him to pose for those selfies.

In fairness, investing in infrastructure and building a more inclusive economy are consistent with the official theme of this Turkish-led summit. Yet the topic dominating the discussion here is how countries should respond to the massacres in Paris.

Trudeau, left, talks to British Prime Minister David Cameron at the start of a plenary session at the summit. A draft communiqué obtained by Reuters suggests G20 leaders will agree to more stringent airline and border security following the Paris attacks. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who's also attending his first summit, said world leaders need to work even more closely together to stop ISIS and the kind of violence its supporters are waging in places such as Paris.

"The issue of a collective response… with a common purpose of combating and defeating terrorism of this kind has to be undertaken, and it will be one of the major items on the agenda of this G20," he said.

For reporters covering Trudeau's first foray on the international stage, access has been limited to the speech and bilateral photo ops where he was asked about Canadian security concerns following the Paris attacks.

"Obviously, the safety and security of Canadians is a priority for me and my government," he said, adding he's been briefed by security officials back home.

Decisions loom

Trudeau's national security adviser, Richard Fadden, is not in Turkey for the G20. And his adviser on foreign policy, Roland Paris, while here in Turkey, only took the job this week.

That may explain why Trudeau hasn't said whether his new government is prepared to reconsider its decision to wrap up Canada's involvement in the airstrikes against ISIS fighters in Iraq. Or how and when the government will increase the number of Canadian soldiers training Kurdish and other forces opposed to ISIS.

G20 gets taste of Trudeaumania

7 years ago
Duration 0:37
Delegates mob Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for selfies in Antalya, Turkey

That will certainly be one of the topics when he sits down later this week with U.S. President Barack Obama when the two attend the APEC Summit in Manila.

And it's clearly a major concern shared by leaders here in Turkey, a country that borders Syria and continues to cope with an estimated two million refugees who've flooded into the country.

Turkey wants more humanitarian aid and more money simply to deal with the wave of human migration, money Canada appears willing to give.

But for now, Trudeau is keeping his focus on building an inclusive economy. And building in a little time for those intent on taking selfies with the newest leader on the G20 block.


Chris Hall

National Affairs Editor

Chris Hall is the CBC's National Affairs Editor and host of The House on CBC Radio, based in the Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. He began his reporting career with the Ottawa Citizen, before moving to CBC Radio in 1992, where he worked as a national radio reporter in Toronto, Halifax and St. John's. He returned to Ottawa and the Hill in 1998. Follow him on Twitter: @chrishallcbc