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Justin Trudeau on everything from legalizing marijuana to being pro-choice

The Liberal party leader on how he would translate his values into policies he’d champion as prime minister.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau spoke at length about his values in an hour-long interview with Metro on Monday and had answers to some, but not all, of our questions on how he would put those values into policies he’d champion as prime minister.

On youth and the middle class...

Trudeau said he knows that many young Canadians feel prosperity is passing them by; that their generation will not have a home, a pension, an education without crippling debt, good employment prospects and economic security upon which to start a family of their own.

“Young people are feeling that,” he said, “and their parents are feeling that this is a breakdown in the idea of Canada, that every generation is supposed to have greater opportunities and be able to get a better quality of life than the previous generation.”

That breakdown is a source of tremendous anxiety that’s toxic to the country, he said.

His plan to solve it starts with investing in education: better bursaries and loans, looking into tying the repayment of student loans to income, and allowing Canadians to use RESPs to continue their education throughout their careers.

Improving the middle class, according to Trudeau, means improving the infrastructure it relies on, particularly transit, as well as encouraging both a “resource and knowledge economy.”

Closing the wealth gap “means supporting middle class Canadians, not supporting the wealthy. That means we’re competitive in terms of corporate taxes but not creating giveaways in hopes that corporations will create jobs.”

On the environment...

Trudeau criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent talk on climate change, suggesting his words were prompted by the election year and not “some kind of road to Damascus” realization that climate change exists.

Trudeau’s position on climate change is to support the provinces as they create systems for putting a price on carbon: Alberta has a levy, B.C. a carbon tax and Quebec a cap and trade system. Ontario has a plan in development.

Trudeau said the federal government should work with the provinces to set out a framework and targets, and use a “carrot and stick approach” with the provinces to ensure they’re met, in order to save the planet and the economy.

“If we can’t demonstrate to our trading partners and our citizens that we are serious about protecting the environment and building the economy in a way that is sustainable and helpful to communities people are going to remove any sort of social licence for mega projects, for pipelines for initiatives that are important for the economy,” he said.

Canadian Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau arrives at a victory rally in Ottawa on October 20, 2015.


Canadian Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau arrives at a victory rally in Ottawa on October 20, 2015.

On child care...

Trudeau knocked the Conservative and New Democrat plans to make child care more affordable.

Trudeau said the Conservative’s income-splitting plan benefits wealthy families the most, “for ideological reasons, for electoral reasons, but not for reasons of actually helping.”

As for the NDP’s universal child-care plan, Trudeau said the party has serious questions to answer about how the government could afford it, given a declining surplus.

“The Liberal party is still pulling together our child-care plan. We’re looking at the new fiscal framework but we are looking directly at making sure that families like yours get the help they need,” he said.

Working with provinces and municipalities will be part of making sure spaces are available.

On terrorism...

Trudeau doesn’t know yet what the Liberals’ response to C-51 — the government’s anti-terror bill that expands CSIS’s power and criminalizes promoting terrorism — will be, but his caucus is going over the details and will debate it Wednesday.

“The fundamental responsibility of any government is to keep its citizens safe. Everyone gets that,” he said. “Whether it’s rail safety — as we learned with Lac-Mégantic — whether it’s protection against jihadists and international terrorists and radicalization, that’s something the government needs to do.”

Trudeau said the Liberals have been calling for public and parliamentary oversight of Canada’s spy agencies, and the balancing of safety with the protection of Canadian values.

On First Nations and racism...

Canada has failed aboriginal people and needs to have a discussion about racism, Trudeau said.

The federal government broke the trust and respectful partnership promised in the treaties, through residential schools, failing to react to the problem of missing and murdered women and failing to provide quality education for First Nations people, he said.

While the residential school apology was important, action didn’t follow and a lack of action on aboriginal issues hasn’t come with a political consequence so far, he said.

“We have a responsibility to make sure that First Nations education is funded, that a kid in a First Nations community has exactly the same level of funding as a kid in any other community in the country,” he said.

Support for mental health and addiction services in remote areas must equal the support available in urban areas, he said.

“There are a lot of structural problems that need to be addressed and a fundamental element of that is rebuilding the broken relationship.”

On legalizing marijuana...

Trudeau said his commitment to legalizing marijuana comes from his own values related to personal freedom and protecting the vulnerable, not political strategy.

“It’s all about allowing adults to make their choices while protecting kids much better than we are now,” he said.

He cited a study (by UNICEF) that found Canada had the highest rate of underage marijuana use among the 29 nations studied.

“Our current approach isn’t protecting our kids, we need to protect the vulnerable, while respecting people’s freedoms,” he said.

On cities...

In nearly 150 years since confederation, Canada has shifted from 80 per cent rural and 20 per cent urban, to the opposite and it’s time to recognize that cities deliver a majority of services on a fraction of the tax base, Trudeau said.

His party is looking at creating another mechanism — something akin to the gas tax — that empowers cities to build infrastructure, he said.

Trudeau said it’s time to stop finger pointing and recognize that all governments serve the same citizens, so as prime minister, he’d meet with the premiers and the country’s mayors and aboriginal leaders, to help them build their long-term plans.

“I know we’re a federation, we’re not always going to get along, but we do share a vision about what is going to be needed and I know we can work better, much more efficiently on delivering those needs instead of just saying, ‘Hey, Ottawa’s balanced its books, now it’s up to Toronto or Ontario to do it on their own.’”

On women...

On the divisive issue of abortion Justin Trudeau has a practiced answer. It’s one he says is based on personal conviction, not political strategy.

He supports a woman’s right to choose.

He’s Catholic, but said that elected representatives should not impose personal views on entire communities.

“I’ve sat down with a number of bishops, archbishops and even a cardinal and I’ve talked about the fact that their job as priests is very different than my job as a leader, as a politician,” he said.

While it was his father who taught him to stand up for his values, including women’s rights, it was his mother who taught him to like people.

He became a little emotional when speaking about his mother, before quickly composing himself.

“My mom also taught me that strength is also about vulnerability.”

Trudeau recalled his mother’s fear of going public about her mental health struggles. She had been criticized in the press for other issues and feared more of the same.

“Instead, people were unbelievably supportive and positive,” he said. “All my life people tell me how great my dad was and what an impact he had, but over the past few years as many people come up to tell me the work my mom has done on mental health has had an impact on them.”

He was tested last year when two Liberal MPs were accused of sexual harassment. He kicked both out of caucus.

“Most workplaces are further ahead than the House of Commons was, and that’s why there was very little I could do within our existing system, which is why the actions I took were fairly decisive.”

He sighed before answering that cultural change is needed before legislative change.

“Our judges, our judicial system, our police, our investigators, are in a very, very difficult situation responding to something like that, that’s already happened and in many cases, ends up being he-said-she-said,” Trudeau said.

“There’s a big culture shift that’s ongoing, that needs to continue.”