The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, 44, and President Obama held a press conference March 10, 2016, discussing common values, the shared bonds between the two countries, and the continued desire to set better standards for the world. The visit by Prime Minister Trudeau marks the first official state visit to the White House from a Canadian prime Minister in 20 years. This visit will mark a peaceful break, in contrast to the tense relations that have existed between the two countries, ever since the Keystone PipeLine XL project became a source of contention.
David MacNaughton, Trudeau’s newly appointed ambassador to the United States, confirmed to CBC News that the Keystone dilemma had made it difficult to move forward in other endeavors. “It was such a focus, everything else was put on the back burner. It sidetracked the relationship.” The relationship in question has been effectively reinforced over the past 3 days. Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, 40, and their three children made a splash among national media, as President Obama welcomed them to the United States for the state visit. The official visit has been brimming with ceremony, banquets, and press coverage. It was eagerly anticipated, due to the offer having been extended in October 2015, right after Trudeau had been elected to office.
There was an intense amount of media hype and buzz surrounding the prime minister, his looks, progressive social views, and charm made the welcoming visit ripe for the internet to scoop up. Trudeau seemed to take all the attention in stride. MacNaughton told Politico, “I don’t mind why it is that people are paying attention. The fact that they are paying attention is an opportunity to focus on substance.” Trudeau is well-equipped to have all eyes on him. He is the son of late Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The 44-year-old prime minister took a moment to speak in a tribute to Malia and Sasha Obama, as he could relate to the girls, having grown up under the scrutiny of the public eye himself. He said the two teenagers had a strength beyond their years and that their “remarkable childhood and young adulthood gifted them with a strength and wisdom beyond their years for the rest of their life.”
The president and prime minister, have a number of commonalities. They are young, progressive leaders, who came into their term following a leader who was their apparent opposite. Stephen Harper, the former Canadian prime minister was overwhelmingly conservative. The Star commented on the warmth of the American president and Trudeau, saying that in comparison to the chilly demeanor, which President Obama had towards Stephen Harper, it was no wonder the two young world leaders burgeoning friendship was making headlines. They pointed out that the majority of news coverage focused on how their personal relationship was flourishing, as opposed to the issues surrounding their working relationship. The Star also mentioned that the conservative critics of Trudeau have said that nothing real was accomplished during his visit. They maintain that he wasted time, “waiting for a pat on the head from Obama, partying it up in D.C. with anti-oil activists, instead of standing up for Canadian jobs.”
On March 10, The Star reported that Trudeau had met with American university students for a question and answer period. The young prime minister answered questions about the inclusion of Sikh members in his cabinet, the importance of feminism, battling anti-Muslim sentiment, and his recent acceptance of 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada. The Canadian prime minister reassured the students that it is easy to stoke fears when people are scared for their financial security, as well as that of their children. Despite people running against him, who were too willing to build upon that fear, he had been elected to office. He deadpanned, telling them that he had faith in the American electorate, which brought some laughter.
While it is true that much was made of the president and the prime minister having a close relationship and a growing admiration for each other, they discussed issues of state openly at a press conference on March 10, 2016. Trudeau responded to questions from both foreign and American press, discussed the desire for a common market, with goods and services moving back and forth over the border, to make sure that there are not any contradictions between a shared economy and a structured environment. Trudeau also explained that he and the president had not only been conferring on matters of the economy but also climate change, as well as providing safety for citizens in both countries, as well as worldwide safety.
During the press conference, he relayed a sentiment, which could easily stand to represent the entire trip. Trudeau expressed that the people are lucky to be in this world. He has learned and continues to learn from President Obama. Trudeau said he felt extremely lucky to call upon the American president, who is 10 years his senior, as a comfort and a friend. Trudeau was especially happy to have a friend that had gone through many of the things he was expecting to come across during his term as the prime minister. It seems quite clear that the special relationship between Canada and the United States, despite being strained, has room to flourish.
By Juanita Lewis
Edited by Jeanette Smith
The Star: Justin Trudeau calls three-day trip to Washington a ‘tremendous success’
U.S. News: Canada’s Sweetheart Justin Trudeau Praises Sasha and Malia Obama at State Dinner
CBC News: Keystone ‘sucked all the oxygen’ out of Canada-U.S. relationship, new ambassador says
BBC News: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on US state visit
USA Today: Trudeau state visit marks emerging ‘special relationship’ with Canada
Image Courtesy of Mohammed Jangda’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License