Justin Trudeau defends performance as 2013 draws to close
Liberal leader talks about his attendance, China remarks, Arctic, but mum on biggest mistake
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is staying mum on what he thinks his biggest mistake has been in the past year.
In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Trudeau paused for several seconds when asked to name the biggest mistake he made this year.
"Why don't you tell me," Trudeau said.
"I am confident that there haven't been any big mistakes this year. That the work I've been doing on the ground, connecting with Canadians, getting out there, being hopeful and optimistic and working incredibly hard to demonstrate that the Liberal Party is serious about serving Canadians in the right way, is overriding any hiccups along the way," he said.
Asked about controversial comments Trudeau made about China, where he seemed to express admiration for the country, he said he was simply pointing out that the country, a one-party state and one that's often accused of abusing human rights, can do things Canada cannot.
"I was simply pointing out that China is a country that we have to deal with on the international stage and they have a capacity because of a different system of government — that we would never want to have — to do things that we are not able to do," he said.
"And we need to understand that the partisanship and the slowness that we are struggling with here in Ottawa to get anything done, a government that's been bogged down by scandal for the past months and unable to do anything, is not necessarily the great model that we should be aspiring to."
Trudeau defended his attendance after going to question period 12 of 33 sitting days since the throne speech in October.
"Canadians want to elect good people to be their voice in Ottawa. And what we get in Ottawa is instead the prime minister's voice and the prime minister's voice in their communities. And we need to restore democracy and that happens not inside the [Ottawa] bubble. It happens out across the country," he said.
Canada 'where we need to be' on corporate tax rate
Responding to a series of rapid-fire questions, Trudeau addressed a number of policy issues:
- On an expected budget surplus in 2015: "I think I'd work on making sure that Canadians have opportunities to find good jobs, to grow, to gain stability in terms of pensions. The reality is that Canadians don't feel that our economy is working for us. We need to make sure that the middle class gets … the first raise in 30 years."
- On the Conservatives' plan for income splitting: "A decent idea, but it doesn't help the most vulnerable. So there's advantages in some ways, but it's not exactly the panacea that they're pretending it is."
- On corporate taxes: "I think we're pretty much where we need to be on corporate taxes. I felt that during the recession it wasn't the time to decrease further corporate taxes, but where they are right now is something OK with me."
- On reducing greenhouse gas emissions through cap and trade versus a carbon tax: "I think we need to price carbon, there's no question about it. The way we do it needs to be based on science and not political debates and attacks, and that's why I'm drawing on experts and best practices from around the world."
- On Canada Post ending door-to-door mail delivery: "What we haven't had is any kind of vision or leadership from this government as to how we're going to move forward with Canada Post and with a whole bunch of other problems that they're just not looking at because they're overly preoccupied with their own political survival."
Santa Claus is Canadian
Trudeau also asserted Santa Claus is Canadian amid a debate over whether the North Pole falls within Canadian territory.
Canada's submission to a UN commission on the limits of the continental shelf led to a debate on Parliament Hill that has at times gotten silly, with Paul Calandra, parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, asserting opposition MPs aren't protecting Santa Claus's Canadian citizenship.
Trudeau said the assessment needs to be based on science.
"I would certainly like to think so, because everyone knows that Santa Claus is Canadian. But the real issue is what do the cartographers say? What do the experts in science [say]?" he said.
Russian anti-gay law 'unacceptable'
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's belief that the North Pole is part of Canada isn't enough, Trudeau said.
"This is a UN mapping process that's been going on for 10 years … scientists need to demonstrate that we have a legitimate claim on the North Pole. Of course I want us to declare as much as we possibly can," Trudeau said.
"We need to base our decisions on science, not chest thumping."
As for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who last June signed a law that banned the "promotion of non-traditional sexual relations" to minors, Trudeau suggested he'd take a hard stance.
"My stance would be to point out that it's absolutely unacceptable that they have these hateful laws within their country that is aspiring to be a full partner around the table of nations as a pseudo-democracy. And that for me is not good enough," Trudeau said.
The law "fundamentally disrespects a significant proportion of its population," he added.