Prime Minister Trudeau and Cabinet ministers participate in a town hall with high school students
PETER: The Prime Minister of Canada, our Minister of Youth, the RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU!
(Cheers & applause)
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU (Prime Minister of Canada): Thanks, Peter. Hello everyone. Good morning, friends.
What a pleasure to be here today. This is a nice moment for us to celebrate a one year anniversary of forming government, but also a time to reflect on what we’ve done so far and how we’re continuing to work for the future. And for me, whenever I think about how we’re working for the future or what we’re thinking about in the months, in the years and beyond coming up, it’s really important to connect that and to be reminded of the long term by connecting with all of you.
So having young people here today to ask questions, to talk about where we’re going as a government and where we’ve been is for me one of those really, really key ways of staying connected with what matters for today, for tomorrow and for the long term future of this country.
So I want to say thank you to all of you for being here, because this is not just important to sort of mark this anniversary, but it’s an important moment for me and for all of us to hear from you, to hear the things that you and your peers are worried about, to respond to some of those questions and to involve you in how we are shaping the future of this country altogether.
But as you know, this isn’t something we do all by ourselves. We’ve chosen to work as a team. We’ve chosen to lead a government by cabinet. But to have a cabinet that is up to Canadians’ expectations, we had to choose a team that reflects Canada’s realities and diversity. And that’s precisely what we’ve been able to accomplish here, with this extraordinary team and its tremendous diversity. And you have to understand that it’s not just a question of wanting to ensure that all Canadians can see people who reflect their identity or who can understand the challenges facing us across this land, but it’s also important to have a diversity of perspectives.
One of the amazing things that we have with a group as diverse as this cabinet is, even though like Canadians ourselves we’re bound together on a broad range of values and principles that we all agree on, we come at it from very different places, from very different stories, from different linguistic, religious, cultural, geographic backgrounds. And having a group of people with a broad range of perspectives work together on a project that unites us all – that is, serving this country – allows for an extraordinarily beneficial level of complex discussions and perspectives. We get better outcomes when we are highlighting gender balance, when we’re highlighting the broad range of diverse perspectives and backgrounds that are there. So for me, this is the kind of cabinet we need if we’re going to be able to fold in all the various perspectives, but all the various solutions that Canadians themselves expect to see from their government.
But one of the other things is it’s not just about picking a great group of people, it’s about actually empowering them to be decision-makers.
Now, any one person doesn’t have all the answers and can’t know everything, no matter how smart they are or think they are. But together… but together we can. Making sure that we’re able to fold in and give responsibilities to ministers who actually have decision-making powers, who actually choose and shape and are responsible for the decisions. So these ministers are not spokespeople for their departments, or for what the Prime Minister wants them to say, they are very much driving the agenda, driving the solutions, responsible for the decisions they’re making.
And quite frankly that’s pretty much the question that each and every one of them asked me when I was encouraging them to step forward into government. They wanted to know that they would be able to actually take responsibility and drive and impact change themselves. And, quite frankly, as a country, we’re amazingly lucky that these people are doing just that, because the breadth of strength and decision-making that they have shown over the past year makes all of us look good, makes me look good, and quite frankly, sets this country on the right path.
So I want to take a few moments right now to introduce to you our cabinet, these great folks, and then I’m looking forward to getting around to some of your questions afterwards. But I think it’s important to understand the depth and the strengths of the folks behind us in this room.
Now, not every cabinet minister could be with us here today, so I just want to shout out to a few of the folks who weren’t able to be here.
Jody Wilson-Raybould is our Attorney General and Minister of Justice and she’s in Australia right now, speaking about a really important issue, both to us and to Australia, which is reconciliation with indigenous populations.
Marc Garneau, our Transport Minister, right now is in Montréal to share a vision for what transportation could and should look like in 2030. And our Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities is in Vancouver talking with thousands of kids just like you guys, for WE Day. Bill Morneau, our Minister of Finance, is out talking about the Fall Economic Statement we just released, and how it’ll help families, like yours, to have a brighter, more secure future. And there are six other fantastic ministers who couldn’t be here today because they’re out working hard to deliver on the things that Canadians elected us to do.
That said, we’re lucky to have 19 of our ministers here with us and I’d like to introduce them to you now.
Now what I’m going to ask each one of them, as we go through, is to tell us either what their favourite moment, the thing they’re most proud of from the past year is, or else, what they’re looking forward to, or what you guys should keep an eye out for in the coming year that they’re going to be doing that they think is going to make a particular ... a particular impact.
So I’m very pleased to introduce our cabinet, and since I’m a former teacher, I’m going to introduce them in alphabetical order; besides, that’s the order my index cards are in.
I’d like to begin with Marie-Claude Bibeau. Marie-Claude lived in Morocco and Benin while working for the former Canadian International Development Agency. That’s what makes her a great choice for the International Development and Francophonie portfolio. This year she helped organize the Global Fund Replenishment Conference, the event with Bono and Bill Gates that we held in Montréal a few weeks ago. It was quite a gathering of friends. We were able to collect nearly 13 billion dollars to combat malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS so that we can do away with these diseases for good by 2030. And Marie-Claude was right in the thick of it all. I’m really, really happy to see you here, Marie-Claude.
Give us your highlights or what’s coming up.
HON. MARIE-CLAUDE BIBEAU (Minister of International Development and La Francophonie): Thank you. So, I’m the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, and the mandate that the Prime Minister gave me is to review our entire international aid policy. I look on this as quite a privilege, because subjecting a policy to an in-depth review as we’re doing now is something that’s done every 10 or 15 years. So it’s really a privilege for me. And throughout the year we’ve held extensive consultations with Canadians and with our partners abroad. And the decision that was reached, and it was a unanimous decision, was that we would put women and girls at the top of our priorities. For one thing because in those countries they’re often the most vulnerable to poverty and violence among other things, not to mention climate change. But also because we know that they are extraordinary engines of change, development and peace.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you very much, Marie-Claude. And thanks a lot for being brief. It’s like in cabinet, if you talk for too long I’ll cut you off.
The next person I’d love to hear from is Bardish Chagger. Now, Bardish is not only our Minister of Small Business and Tourism, she is also the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; the first woman in Canadian history to hold that position. As House Leader she’s responsible for managing the government’s day to day in the House, which means that when we are in the House, technically, she’s my boss, and she reminds me of that, as we sit together all the time.
So Bardish, tell us.
HON. BARDISH CHAGGER (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism): Thank you, Prime Minister. Welcome everyone. It is indeed an honour and privilege to be amongst yourselves.
I have to say, the thing that I’m most proud of is that our government has been able to bring people of all walks of life together. So I got involved in the political process when I was 13 years old. I didn’t have a vote, but I did have a say, and it is so important that you be involved in shaping the kind of country that you want to live in. And that’s why I’m so happy to be here serving Canadians each and every single day.
Something I’m looking forward to is the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy, to get more women, more young people, more underrepresented groups representing small business owners, creating the job opportunities of the future, and also the tourism vision, because our country is amazing. Everyone needs to visit, and I challenge each and every single one of you to visit ten provinces, three great territories, and to experience everything that Canada has to offer. Thank you so much.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Outstanding, Bardish, thanks.
Next, I’d like to turn to our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Dion. One of my favourite anecdotes about Stéphane is from when he was young and still learning English, when he’d meet tourists and they’d ask him for directions, his answer was always, “go straight ahead.” You just go straight ahead no matter what. And I think that’s a metaphor for the way that Stéphane has always moved forward in life. But obviously, Stéphane has a very good sense of direction, and combined with his years of experience in politics, he’s proving to be a tremendous Minister of Foreign Affairs, where he’s helping to re‑establish Canada’s strong presence throughout the world. Thank you, Stéphane, for being with us. Thanks for sharing this morning.
HON. STÉPHANE DION (Minister of Foreign Affairs): Yes, Prime Minister, to recount the worst, the worst experience I’ve had in the past year as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the best one.
So the worst one, it was when I was in Sri Lanka, a country that had an awful civil war, and a mother brought herself on her knees facing me and asking me, desperately, to bring her son back; her son disappeared during the war. And I tried to lift her up and she came back on her knees again. It was awful for me, and I thought in my mind, I cannot bring her son back, but we need to do everything we can under the leadership of the Prime Minister to help countries like Sri Lanka to get out of civil war and to have a future and to have reconciliation altogether.
The best moment was when I was in Guatemala and I met a young girl your age named Nancy, who decided she was going to take the lead in ensuring that there would be no more forced marriages in her country. And with the help of Canada and other countries, she led a campaign that was so effective that she got Guatemala to pass a law so that boys and girls could not marry before the age of 18. And she wants to do that in other places, for other countries. That’s what Marie‑Claude Bibeau wants to do. It’s what we all want to do. So, Canada has a role to play in the world.
We have a role to play in the world and we must be very proud of it and to do it with a lot of determination. Canada must be a determined peacebuilder, a committed architect of peace. Thank you.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you, Stéphane. So, next, I want to introduce you to Jean-Yves Duclos. Before becoming Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, he was the director of the economics department at Laval University, and before that, he was employee of the month at McDonalds. So now we know where that can lead.
Jean-Yves is responsible for managing a lot of things that directly affect your families. For example, he’s the one who set up the new Canada Child Benefit that was launched this summer. Thanks to this benefit, nine out of ten families have more money every month to help meet the costs of raising children, and this benefit is going to bring hundreds of thousands of young people out of poverty across the country. We’re very proud of it.
HON. JEAN-YVES DUCLOS (Minister of Families, Children and Social Development): Thank you, Justin. So, like Justin, I was a teacher for a number of years. My father always used to tell me that to ... if there’s something you don’t know how to do, the best way to learn it is to teach it. So I did it for 25 years, and after 25 years, I started to say, OK, I’ve started getting to know my field pretty well. But where I’m connecting with you today is on the matter of homework. I also start getting really nervous when I get homework. I look at, one, what is there that has to be done, and then I look at, two, how, when do I have to do it. And what made me most nervous, but also proudest, in the last few months, was when Mr. Trudeau met with me this past December and said to me, Jean‑Yves, you’ve got to do the Canada Child Benefit, 25 billion dollars, and you’ve got to do it for July. And it’s got to bring 40 percent of the country’s children out of poverty.
So with the team work that we did together, we managed to achieve it and I am obviously very proud. Thank you.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thanks, Jean-Yves. Next, I’d like to turn to our cabinet minister who hails from the Burin Peninsula in Newfoundland and Labrador, Judy Foote, who’s the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, which means she’s responsible for managing all the contracts the government needs to actually run; from Defence to Canada Post and the building ... to the buildings that our government staff work in every day.
And if that wasn’t enough, Judy also has the difficult challenge of having to sit next to the biggest geek in the House of Commons. That would be me. (Sighs). Go ahead, Judy.
HON. JUDY FOOTE (Minister of Public Services and Procurement): Thank you, Prime Minister. First of all, let me say how exciting it is to be here with all of you. When I walked into the room I thought here are the leaders of today, not just the leaders of tomorrow. So whenever I get an opportunity to do this I do it, and I encourage all of you to really consider getting involved in the political process, getting involved in politics as a career, or in our incredible, incredible public service, because there are wonderful opportunities there for each and every one of you.
Public Services and Procurement, as the Prime Minister said, is a large department of government and it’s an operational department. We work with all the departments in government. And that’s what’s really exciting for me is that we get to have an impact working with all of my colleagues here on the stage, and those who couldn’t be with us today. And one of the things that I’m really proud of that we have done, and we’ve done a lot that we’re very pleased about, but it would be working with the Minister of Immigration, with the Honourable John McCallum, in terms of bringing the Syrian refugees here to Canada. And you know how hard we worked and how hard John worked to do that. We all did, as a cabinet, and thank you to the Prime Minister for making that possible.
But what was really exciting for me was when I saw the Prime Minister welcoming Syrian refugees at the airport. It was knowing that the department that I lead was really responsible for getting them here in terms of arranging their flights, making sure they had winter jackets, making sure they had places to stay. Those are the types of things that Public Services and Procurement is involved in, in addition to all of the other challenges that the Prime Minister mentioned.
So it’s so good to see all of you here. It’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us who get to serve in cabinet, and that could be your future, if you consider politics as a career. Thank you.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you. The next member of cabinet I’d like to introduce is Chrystia Freeland. She’s our Minister of International Trade, who’s had a very busy past few weeks. Not that that’s unusual, but she was making sure over the past few weeks that we actually concluded a really important trade agreement – the Canada-Europe trade agreement, known as CETA, the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement – that is going to make a huge difference for Canadians in terms of having access to European markets for our producers and lowering trade barriers and creating opportunities for everyone.
One of the interesting things is one of the ways she got it done was by backyard diplomacy. And if you don’t know what backyard diplomacy is, Chrystia can tell you, she invited important diplomats over to her backyard for a barbecue and talked about how they were going to work things out in a very connected, real and human way, and that leadership that she showed, that drive and the strength of personality and intellect that has guided us through this trade deal every step of the way really is what allowed us to be celebrating an incredible achievement this past week.
So Chrystia, go ahead.
HON. CHRYSTIA FREELAND (Minister of International Trade): Well, thank you very much, Prime Minister. And that story is actually true. I am a mother. I have a 15‑year‑old, an 11‑year‑old, and a 7‑year‑old. And when I told them we were having these Europeans come over for a barbecue they said, can we go to our rooms? And I said no, actually you have to barbecue and be charming. So feel sorry for them, please.
Look, I thought about what I was the proudest of, and what I’m the proudest of this year is to have served in Canada’s first gender-balanced cabinet. I thought it was a great idea when the Prime Minister put it in our election program, but I didn’t appreciate the power it would have until he did it. I travel around the world a lot and the thing that we’ve done that I hear from the most about is women in cabinet. And especially women in countries where women’s rights are more in jeopardy than in Canada. Like the younger women delegations, they come up to me, they hug me, they say, ‘because it’s 2015,’ and that is so powerful.
And as the mother of a young woman who’s the age of a lot of you here, a 15‑year‑old, I see the impact that’s had, so that’s what’s meant the most to me as a mother and a woman.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you, Chrystia. Next, I’d like to introduce our Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Ralph Goodale. Ralph is a person we turn to when things go wrong, and he’s the guy who makes sure that we’re all kept safe.
He also oversees the national security file, which includes Canada’s intelligence service and spies, so that’s something I’m actually kind of jealous of, that he gets to play in there. It’s an important job because, while he’s driving to make sure that Canadians are kept safe, he’s also having to make sure every step of the way that we’re respecting the law and the values and the things that are important to Canadians, because we know we have to protect our rights and protect our safeties at the same time, and Ralph does a very good job at it.
He’s also the only caucus member to have served under two prime ministers named Trudeau. So thank you, Ralph, for being here.
HON. RALPH GOODALE: (Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness): Prime Minister, thank you. And it’s a great privilege to participate in this event today with all of my colleagues, but most especially all of these fascinating young people who are leaders today and will be leaders tomorrow. Thank you for being with us this morning.
It’s ... it’s hard to pick out one or two things from this fascinating first year of the second Trudeau government. But, you know, one of the things that really stands out for me is the emergency preparedness side of my portfolio, and representing the Government of Canada in dealing with that awful fire that affected Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta in May of this year.
Eighty thousand people had to be relocated. Half a million hectares of land and forest and community were burned out. It was the biggest natural fire disaster in Canadian history. And from my perspective, I got to see some fascinating things: the strength and resilience of the people of Fort McMurray; the raw courage that got them through that situation; the amazing first responders, firefighters, and all of the others who came to the rescue; the real leadership and determination of the local officials and the provincial officials in Alberta; the wonderful way that federal government agencies came together to help; and the amazing generosity of Canadians right across this country who said in moral terms, but also in cold, hard cash, hey, Fort Mac, we’ve got your back because that’s what we do as Canadians. When there’s trouble anywhere we all pull together and rescue each other and defend each other and help each other to get through it.
It was a tough moment in dealing with that awful fire – the beast, as everybody called it – but it was a wonderful moment to see the heart and the strength and the courage of Canadians respond. It’s a great highlight, a great demonstration of what Canada is all about.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you, Ralph. I’d like to pass now onto Minister Patty Hajdu. Now Patty was actually the first person in her family to complete post-secondary education; also the first member of her family to be a cabinet minister. (Laughs).
Now, back home in Thunder Bay, Patty ran the city’s largest homeless shelter and has dedicated her career to working with marginalized communities. And I can tell you that as Minister for the Status of Women, as an advocate for marginalized peoples and an extraordinarily strong voice around cabinet who keeps us on our toes and thinking about people who don’t often have their voices heard around the cabinet table, she is an extraordinary member of our team, and I’m happy to also point out that today is her birthday. Happy birthday, Patty. She turns 50 today. Bonne fête, Patty.
HON. PATTY HAJDU (Minister of Status of Women): Thank you so much, Prime Minister, for the birthday wishes. And really, it’s my 50th birthday and I’m here with all of you, so I couldn’t ask for a better party.
I would have to say that I am so proud of a government that recognizes that we are stronger because of our diversity and not in spite of it. And not just the diversity that we automatically think about in terms of religion or culture, or gender even. But, in fact, the diversity that allows people like me, someone who grew up in poverty, raised by a single mother, who raised my two children alone, to actually gain an education, contribute to my community, and now contribute to my country. And I am so proud to say that there is opportunity for all of you.
And I’d also like to acknowledge the Prime Minister’s leadership on gender equity, because I see a lot of young women in the audience today; and I can guarantee you that this is probably something you will reflect back on, seeing a cabinet that has just as many women as men, and seeing a place for yourself in government. We’re going to get more pictures of women on the walls of these buildings, in this city. Thank you so much for your interest and thanks for being here today.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thanks, Patty. I’d now like to introduce Kent Hehr, who’s our Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Associate Minister of National Defence. Kent’s also a big hockey fan. He played in the Alberta Junior Hockey League for a number of years, and as part of his memorabilia collection he has a hockey stick signed by Wayne Gretzky, which he won’t let me touch.
This year he helped reopen two of the nine Veterans Affairs offices that were previously closed. These are the frontline offices that offer help to our veterans and are a really important part of keeping our promises to those who have served. And Kent and his department are on track to reopening seven more offices by next May because those who serve their country in the military deserve to make sure that be ... to understand that we are taking care of them when they come home, and their family.
So Kent, tell us about it.
HON. KENT HEHR (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence): Well, thank you, Prime Minister. And 2.3 million Canadians have served this nation in our armed forces. A hundred and eighteen thousand of them have paid the ultimate sacrifice. And I think what I’m most proud of is, our government understands, not only recognizing their contributions but understanding that when they come back they often have physical, emotional scars that our department is trying to work with them to better their outcomes for them and their families. Full stop.
And we’re looking at this in a whole of government approach, and my work ... you don’t just work with your department, you work with an entire team here. And my work with Minister Sajjan on how we’re going to have better outcomes for our men and women who serve in our military, and how they’re going to have better employment opportunities, better education opportunities, better access to mental and physical supports where and when they need them is what I’m so proud of. Because you don’t just do it in one department here in our government. We work all very closely together to make sure our partnerships and our linkages have better outcomes for our citizens of this great nation. And just working with each and every one of you on a day to day basis has truly been a joy and an honour and a privilege. And I thank you for that.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you, Kent.
I turn now to Mélanie Joly, who is the only person among us here today who has truly founded a political party, Le Vrai changement pour Montréal, when she ran for mayor of Montréal in 2013. As Minister of Canadian Heritage, she is responsible for ensuring that our unique Canadian identity is recognized. And for next year, she has the formidable task of overseeing all of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. I’m expecting every one of you to be there. It’s going to be a huge party next year, 150 years since Confederation. And Mélanie’s in charge. Mélanie.
HON. MÉLANIE JOLY (Minister of Canadian Heritage): Thank you, Prime Minister. So, if you’ll allow me, I want to ask you some questions.
Who is, right now, on Facebook? Please raise your hands. Who has an Instagram account? Who has a Snapchat account? Who has a Twitter account, maybe? Okay, that’s great.
Now, what my team and I are doing is making sure that everything we do at Heritage and all our laws and regulations take into account how you communicate. And for us, that’s key, because everything that is done right now doesn’t take into account your reality and our reality. So this is a big challenge I’m tackling, and also, but the Prime Minister talked to you about it. For us, we’re going to have a big anniversary next year. So who will be celebrating Canada 150? You better all raise your hands! So, I hope you’re really going to make sure you can celebrate because we’re counting on you to be the generation 2017. Thank you.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I now want to turn to Dominic LeBlanc, who’s our Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, but you have to understand, Dominic and I go way back. He used to babysit me when I was a kid. So if I’m a little squirrely from time to time I blame it on him.
But before, because our fathers were friends—but before Dominic’s father became Governor General, he was Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard during my father’s term. So it was really touching for me to have been able to appoint Dominic to that same department, in terms of our family history. But above all, he does an extraordinary job, among other things, having reopened the Kitsilano Coast Guard Base in Vancouver, because it’s important to be ready to ensure the safety of Canadians in marine environments. And we have to remember that in addition to our lakes and rivers, Canada has to manage three oceans, in collaboration with our provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners. It’s demanding work, and I’m really happy I can count on Dominic to work very hard on that. Dominic?
HON. DOMINIC LEBLANC (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans): Thank you, Prime Minister. Come to think of it, Prime Minister, when you and I were the age of our guests here, we would be riding our bicycles around New Edinburgh, ringing doorbells and running away. What a difference 35 years can make.
One of the things I’m most proud of, and the Prime Minister mentioned it, is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for me should and can be a very, very big part of our government’s environmental agenda. And the Prime Minister has asked me to work on protecting more of Canada’s oceans, protecting oceans from, obviously pollution, from overfishing, and ensuring that the fish and the marine mammals that live in our three oceans will be there for generations and generations to come.
So what I’m very excited about is our department has hired a hundred new scientists already this year to help us make the best decisions we can. I hope some of you may be interested in marine biology and come and work for us to help us protect Canada’s oceans and make the best decisions we can for generations and generations to come on how to build a sustainable economy in parts of the country that are very dear to me. I come from New Brunswick on the East Coast, so you can imagine how excited I am when the Prime Minister gave me this job. Thank you.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you. I would now like to introduce Diane Lebouthillier. You know, the first time I talked to Diane when she was a candidate, she was in a car, and I spent the first three or four minutes trying to convince her that it really was me on the phone. She didn’t believe me. But I am very, very happy that she ran an extraordinary campaign, that she became a member of Parliament, and especially our Minister of National Revenue. She is responsible for collecting money from taxes that we as a government can then reinvest. It is a crucial role within cabinet, and I am very pleased that she is still answering my calls, especially with such an eventful department. She truly is an extraordinary person, and we are really happy to have her in our cabinet. Diane?
DIANE LEBOUTHILLIER (Minister of National Revenue): Hello, everyone. Listen, I am very proud to be here with you today. It has been an extraordinary year. For those of who don’t really know me, I come from Gaspésie and Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Gaspé in Mi’kmaq means the tip of the world. That’s just so you know how far away I come from. And to be appointed a cabinet minister has made everyone in Gaspésie and Îles-de-la-Madeleine incredibly proud, and it shows that anything is possible.
So as the Prime Minister said, we, I, at the Department of Revenue, it is really because I have contact with all of your parents once a year, gathering, collecting taxes that can then be given back to the population … to be able to offer services in education, health, infrastructure, research and development, and to be able to welcome refugees, work with Indigenous communities, and to ensure that Canada will always be the best and most beautiful country in the world. Thank you.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thanks, Diane.
I now turn to John McCallum. John is our Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, and to say that he’s had a busy year is something of an understatement. Thanks to his hard work, in our first year we were able to welcome more than 30,000 refugees fleeing the ongoing conflict in Syria. And here’s a little known fact: Most people know John because of his years of political services or his time spent in the private sector as chief economist for one of Canada’s biggest banks. I know him because he was my Dean of Arts when I was a student at McGill. John?
HON. JOHN MCCALLUM (Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship): Well, thank you, Prime Minister. And as you once said, the fact that you never met me when I was in that capacity may have been a good sign, but I’m glad to have gotten to know you since then.
As you have suggested, and as others have suggested, certainly the best moment for me over the last year was that over the space of four months we managed to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees from a terrible civil war across the country... across the ocean to welcome them here in Canada. So I think that was a great achievement. Canadians were so welcoming, and that has made me very proud.
If I look to the future, of the many things we want to do, we want to make it a lot easier for international students to become Canadians, but the most important thing for me is that when we came to office it took typically two years for a family to reunite itself. Some of you may know that if you’ve come from overseas. I think it is unacceptable that the heavy hand of the Canadian state would keep families apart for such a long time.
So what I am really looking forward to in the not too distant future is that we can reduce that processing time very substantially and otherwise equip our department to grow this nation going forward. Thank you very much.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you, John. Next is Catherine McKenna. She’s a local MP. She represents the riding of Ottawa Centre, and you might well recognize her from your own front door because she knocked on over 100,000 doors in the last campaign when she was a candidate. But she’s now Minister of Environment and Climate Change. And she really does ride her bike to work.
She’s responsible for making sure that the climate plan we’re putting together this fall with the provinces and territories will ensure that you have clean air and water through your whole lives and good jobs that come with a smart forward-thinking economy that we know we need. So Catherine.
HON. CATHERINE MCKENNA (Minister of Environment and Climate Change): Thank you, Prime Minister. It is my great honour to be Minister of Environment and Climate Change. It’s a huge honour to have this job because I have three kids. They’re 7, 10 and 12, and the biggest challenge of our generation is tackling climate change.
My greatest honour was going with the Prime Minister to Paris for the COP21 negotiations. But we didn’t just go, it wasn’t just the Prime Minister and myself. We went with premiers; we went with mayors; we went with indigenous leaders; we went with members of the opposition; we went with environmentalists; and we went with youth. And that’s so important. And when we were there we said, Canada knows climate change is real and Canada is here to work together with the world to find solutions. And that made such a difference, and we worked extremely hard, and it was my huge honour when the gavel went down and we achieved this ambitious agreement with 194 other countries.
Now, I’m going to ask you one thing: I do pinkie promises with kids who are younger than you. The pinkie promise is that you will work with me to help tackle climate change. So I’m not going to make you do a pinkie promise. You’re a little too cool for that. But I will ask that you think about what you can do, what we can do together to tackle the biggest challenge of our generation in climate change. Thank you.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you, Catherine.
I’d like now to turn it to Maryam Monsef. Maryam is the Minister of Democratic Institutions and is in fact the youngest member of our cabinet. She turns 32 on Monday. It’s actually worth noting because one of the things that she’s hard at work at figuring out is how to get more young people engaged in politics, how to get more young people involved and voting. It’s important, not just to get everyone’s voices heard, but because the more young people get involved in politics, the more politicians need to respond to the long term issues that are always forefront of your mind, as well as dealing with immediate support for young people, so you can be realizing your potential throughout your life. So Maryam.
HON. MARYAM MONSEF (Minister of Democratic Institutions): Well thank you, Prime Minister. It’s a great privilege to be here with all of you on this traditional Algonquin territory.
How many of you have a mentor? Someone you look up to? Someone who inspires you? Someone who’s doing what you want to be doing, who opens doors for you, who picks you up when you’re down? Raise your hand if you have a mentor, and look around. This is impressive. Most rooms only about 10 per cent of young people raised their hands. If I leave you with nothing else today, find somebody who will share just an hour of their time with you because it’s because of mentors that I’m here today.
And my mentors told me, that if you’re going to enter politics, make sure that you start your day and you end your day thinking about people and working for people. It’s not about you, whether they love or hate you; it’s what you’re doing for them, for their kids, and their grandkids. And it’s been an amazing year. I just got to travel the whole country and talk to people from all walks of life about how to make democracy better. And everywhere I went, they all thought of you, and they all want you to be more involved in democracy.
Something else I’m really proud of is we opened up the Senate appointment process. For the first time in the history of this country any Canadian who meets the criteria can apply to become a senator and serve their communities in this country.
What I’m most proud of though is that despite all the ups and downs that exist in any job, especially a job that only a handful of people have had, is every day I wake up and I think about the people of Peterborough - Kawartha who sent me here. Every day I come to work, and I have the privilege of working with people who are giving up their time with their loved ones, with their families, with their communities to serve you and your kids and your grandkids. And I’m so proud that I have brought around me a really exceptional team of people who care about the things that I care about. And what I’m most excited about moving forward is tonight at 7:00 o’clock I’m doing a Facebook Live with the Huffington Post, and the topic is: “They say young people don’t care about politics.” Well, I beg to differ, so I hope that you will join me at 7 o’clock with Althia Raj. Thank you.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you, Maryam.
I’d now like to pass it on to Jane Philpott. Jane is our Minister of Health, but I know that at her core, no matter what job title she has, she’s a family doctor. She spent a long time living and working in West Africa, and even after she moved back home to Canada, she maintained her ties to Africa, helping to open Ethiopia’s first training program in family medicine. She cares very deeply about mental health as well, and that’s why I’ve asked her to work on a mental health strategy for the government so we can better take care of one another in Canada. She knows, as I do, that we need to do more to help the wounds that we can’t see. Jane.
HON. JANE PHILPOTT: Thank you, Prime Minister. A show of hands again. I want to know how many of you are considering the possibility of a career in health sciences? Quite a number. Awesome. Great career choice. So I have the health scientist dream job. To be able to make the kinds of decisions and to be able to advance the country’s agenda on health is a tremendous privilege. There are so many things that the Prime Minister has asked me to do, but the one that I wanted to highlight to you today is that in the letter that the Prime Minister wrote to me about a year ago now, and he wrote a very similar letter to all of my colleagues, he started off at the beginning of the letter, and he said: There is no relationship that’s more important to me or to Canadians than our relationship with indigenous peoples.
And so that has really been one of the shaping influential factors in my agenda. And within my portfolio falls responsibility for First Nations and Inuit health. And so I have been working very hard, along with my colleagues across the country, to be able to address the very serious health gaps that exist in this country. The fact that in fact if you are indigenous in this country, you have a life expectancy that is almost a decade shorter than non-indigenous Canadians. So we have some very serious work to do.
One of the specific highlights for me within that portfolio was the fact… was a day that I spent in late July on the northern shores of Quebec, on the Ungava Bay, the windswept beautiful coast there, in a little town called Kuujjuaq. And I went to that place because I was there to stand alongside our partners, the leaders of the Inuit communities across this country, when they announced the rollout of a national Inuit suicide prevention strategy.
As the Prime Minister has said, mental health issues are some of the most serious issues that we’re facing in health in this country, and it’s seen no greater than indigenous populations. And I suspect that you, like me, have been very moved by the tragedies that you hear that are occurring across this country.
But on that beautiful July day as the wind blew and I was surrounded by colleagues, particularly Inuit leaders, they rolled out this strategy. It was a strategy that was written by Inuit for Inuit. It would be delivered by Inuit leaders across this country and healthcare providers. We were there as partners. We were there to deliver the resources that were needed to say that we want to be partners. It was a very proud moment for me. Despite the difficult circumstances when we work together we’ll be able to overcome the health challenges that this country faces, and I hope that I get to work with many of you in the years to come. Thank you.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you, Jane.
Next is Harjit Singh Sajjan. Harj is a former police officer in Vancouver and a Canadian Armed Forces veteran. The comic books call him the Minister of Badass, but I call him the Minister of National Defence. Harj had three deployments to Afghanistan, and because of that he really gets what our soldiers need on the ground and what we need to do to keep us all safe. So this year he’s been talking to a lot of folks about modernizing our Armed Forces and has been taking a look at how we can recruit people for the Forces that better reflect the diversity and the makeup of Canada, including more women. Harj.
HON. HARJIT SINGH SAJJAN (Minister of National Defence): Well thank you very much, Prime Minister. It’s an absolute privilege to be in this cabinet.
The Canadian Armed Forces has a role to play. And if you look at… I’ve pretty much been in a lot of conflict zones. And through those what I get to see is the absolute travesty that it has on a population. And when I look at all of you and you look at what’s around in Canada, you see opportunity, and you inspire me because of the opportunity and what you have for the future, but you don’t see that same sense of opportunity for other folks.
And so what I’m really proud of is actually when the Prime Minister some time ago had the courage to say that we need to look at the root cause of conflict. Because that’s very important, to do the right thing. It’s not just about going out and fighting and trying to solve conflict. We need to start looking at the root cause and preventing it in the first place, because at the end of the day, the Canadian Armed Forces, the people who got recruited in, are asked to do some tremendous work that has an impact but has also a tremendous toll on them as well.
So my … what really excites me is the peace operations that we’re going to be rolling out, and I can’t say anything more about it just yet, is going to be looking at the root cause of a problem, and not just from a National Defence perspective; it’s going to be looking at a whole of government perspective, of having an impact for the youth that are out there.
In Africa right now 50 to 60 per cent of the population in most of the countries are 24 years and less. Instead of them being radicalized and going into other groups, why don’t we use them as an empowerment? And our approach potentially can do that. I’m very proud to be part of a solution that’s going to be looking at the root cause of a conflict and how we’re going to help the Canadian Armed Forces to be a tremendous asset around the world. Thank you.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you, Harj.
And finally I’d like to introduce you Amarjeet Sohi. As the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Amarjeet works with the provinces and municipalities so that we can build new roads, improve our sewers – and I know that doesn’t sound important, but trust me, if it breaks it’s important – and helping build public transit systems, which means more buses, subways, and light rail here in Ottawa. He used to drive a bus in Edmonton, so he definitely understands the importance of public transit. And because life can’t be all about work, I actually found out he once wrote an entire play in Punjabi. So he’s more than just a minister. Amarjeet, tell us about yourself.
HON. AMARJEET SOHI (Minister of Infrastructure and Communities): Well, thank you, Prime Minister. And thank you to you for being here. I’ll tell you before I go into what I’m really proud of, let me tell you a little bit of myself. I came to Canada from India when I was a little bit older than you are, and I landed at the Edmonton International Airport on November 21st, the coldest day of my life ever that I will … that I had ever imagined. Never saw snow before in my life. But I came and I did not speak English. I had a very little understanding about the Canadian culture, Canadian values, and Canadian society. And so I struggled a lot during school. I faced my share of racism and discrimination, but I was surrounded by wonderful people in the school and wonderful Canadians who gave me the right support to get out of that and succeed.
Then a few years later I went back to India to work with social justice, a group to help farmers organize. And I was arrested in India and spent almost 22 months in a prison and 19 months of that was in solitary confinement.
And I stand here today because there were wonderful people like you who fought for me at that time. People who organized to write letters, people who put pressure on the Canadian government to bring me back. So through your efforts, the Canadian government brought me back to Canada.
So if I stand here in front today to be part of this wonderful, wonderful team under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the one thing that I’m proud of is being a Canadian. The one thing I’m proud of is serving you to make our country even a better, better place. So that’s my pride, and I’m so honoured to be part of this. Thank you, Prime Minister.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you, Amarjeet.
It’s an amazing group of people, and quite frankly, the country deserves nothing less than an amazing, diverse group of people working hard every single day to serve you. But the fact is it is a challenge sometimes. When you’re in Ottawa in the Parliament Hill bubble, which isn’t really even Ottawa, it’s easy to get wrapped up in what seems important on the floor of the House of Commons or in committee rooms, and sometimes lose touch with Canadians. And that’s why each and every one of us spends as much time as we can out across the country in question and answer sessions, listening to stakeholders and ordinary Canadians, and hearing from them what their questions are, what their concerns are, how we can do better to help, to serve, to build the right kind of future.
So that’s where I’m so pleased right now that we get to turn it over to all of you, the eight different schools will get questions, and I’m looking forward to hearing your questions. And I think we’re starting over on this end somewhere. So introduce yourself and tell us what school you’re from.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Bonjour.
MACKEN JACKSON (Louis-Riel Public Secondary School): My name is Macken (ph) Jackson, and I’m from Louis‑Riel Public Secondary School. First of all, I would just like ask, how are you?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I am doing very well today.
MACKEN JACKSON: Great. And I would also like to say that I’m very happy to be here. My question concerns immigration. Lately, in developed countries in both Europe and North America, people are questioning the benefits of immigration. But just last week, a report suggested boosting immigration, to integrate immigrants into Canada, 300,000, to remedy the country’s economic growth. So, that is my question. Does your government have a plan for measures to ensure better social and economic integration of newcomers?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Yes, absolutely. First, immigration is something that has made Canada what it is today. Being able to welcome people from around the world has contributed tremendously not just to our economic success, but to our social success as well. Our communities are strong and resilient, not because they are homogeneous but because we recognize that having diverse perspectives, history, approaches is a great strength. And this propensity that we have developed over the years in Canada to see diversity as a source of strength and not a source of weakness is crucial.
And when we look at the challenges presented by globalization and what is going on around the world in terms of migration, with countries that have to understand how to act in the face of increasing diversity, Canada’s example, as a country that is united not by a unique religious, cultural, historical or ethnic identity, but by shared values that define us as Canadians, that is a lesson that we have to share with the world.
So, yes, immigration is becoming essential, and we know that immigration will be a source of opportunity for people who come to Canada, and there will also be opportunities for our communities, our economies. But we also recognize that immigration brings considerable challenges. We must make sure that these people will be able to succeed in our modern economy, which requires more education, it requires knowledge of our two official languages. They will need help integrating into our communities in many different ways. And that is why immigration is not just a government issue.
A wonderful example of this is our welcoming of so many Syrian refugees. Yes, the government facilitated, made it possible, but it did not work alone, because – and this is still the case, we are continuing to work hard – because communities, provinces, municipalities, Canadians, groups of Canadians came together to help them integrate, to work on the next steps. And that is so important in our immigration system. Accepting people, but also ensuring that they will be able to succeed. At that is at the heart of our approach.
Thanks for your question.
JULIAN AYOUB (St. Matthew High School): Good morning, Prime Minister Trudeau. My name is Julian Ayoub, and this is my cousin, Abdul Ayoub. We’re from St. Matt’s High School. We were Syrian refugees and arrived to Canada two years ago.
On behalf of our families, Abdul and I want to personally thank you, and thank the people of Canada for welcoming us with so much kindness and opportunity. And our question to you is…
ABDUL AYOUB (St. Matthew High School): Although we are safe and secure in Canada, many of our friends and family are still in Syria where it’s very dangerous for them. Can our government do more to protect the people that are still living in Syria and get them out of danger?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Absolutely, we can do more and we must do more. Right now around the world there are about 60 million displaced persons, people who are have fled from their homes because of conflict, because of war, because of any number of issues. And that is something that we all have to take care of. And I think there’s three ways that we need to think about doing it.
First of all, as you are wonderful examples of, Canada can do more to bring people who are living in refugee camps and precarious situations to set up and succeed and, you know, build a life here in Canada. Yes, we can do more, and we can encourage other countries to do more around welcoming families fleeing to their countries and give them pathways to success.
Secondly, we need to do more to help the immediate proximity countries, the countries that people run to when they’re escaping a conflict. In the question of Syria, they go north to Turkey. They went west to Lebanon; they went south to Jordan. We can do more to support those countries giving opportunities and a future to young kids and families fleeing for their lives.
But the third area we can and must do more is actually in the country that is the source of those refugees. We need to work more to establish stability in conflict zones, establish security and eventually prosperity so people won’t have to flee for their lives and will be able to manage it. And I think Canada has an important role to play in all three of those elements, and that’s certainly something that we are doing.
Thank you for your question and thank you for being here, gentlemen. Next?
WILLIAM MASER (Nepean High School): Hi, I’m William Maser, and I go to Nepean High School.
Our question for you today is this: in your opinion, do you think that proportional representation is realistic and advantageous for the country?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: A very good question. One of the issues that we addressed in our election campaign and that is still an issue today is the fact that we need to reform our election system. We need to ensure that the perspectives, the voices of Canadians are always well represented in government and in our Parliament, and that parliamentarians hear the many different points of view, the concerns of all Canadians.
And after decades, centuries, in fact, of our current system, I think it’s perfectly normal to look at how we can improve and reform our electoral system. With this system, on this issue, there are many people with vastly different ideas of how to improve our electoral system. For me, rather than talking about format or specific areas that we would like to change, I always strive to talk about values. What are the underlying values that we want? What are our choices in order to have the best governance and the best government and the best process to represent citizens?
There are questions to be answered and choices to make. Do we want diversity in Parliament in terms of different political parties, or do we want such diversity within political parties? Do we want people to represent only those who voted for them, or do we want members of Parliament representing both those who voted for them and those who did not? These types of questions do not directly relate to the issue of which model for reforming our electoral process, but what are the values that will best serve Canada for decades to come? Many discussions around electoral reform look at, OK, who will benefit from this or that, in the last election cycle, in the next election cycle? But we cannot think about the short term when we want to reform our electoral system. We have to think long term, what will the impact be in 20 years, in 30 years?
And it is this responsibility and this reflection that is at the heart of the committee’s work, that our Minister of Democratic Reform is doing, and we will continue to consult directly with Canadians. Thank you for your question.
CHLOÉ LAFLEUR (Béatrice‑Desloges Catholic Secondary School): Hello, Prime Minister. My name is Chloé Lafleur. I am a student at Béatrice-Desloges Catholic Secondary School.. This is my question. Older generations often compare you to your father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. I would like to know what you think about the following: How do your ideas resemble and how are they different from your father’s ideas? And who do you get your leadership skills from?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Very, very good questions. First, I must admit that one of the things that has helped me tremendously in my life – and especially in my career has a politician – has been having a prime minister as a father. But not in the sense you think, because, throughout my entire life, there have been people who knew who my father was, who had already formed their opinion of me. They liked me because they liked my father, or they didn’t like because they didn’t like my father. And they looked at me from that angle. So I’ve had to develop a very strong sense of who I am, of my own strengths and my own weaknesses, and not be influenced by the perceptions or expectations of others.
So, I learned how to put aside those who criticized me without any basis, without knowing me, who simply expected me to be a certain way; but I also had to put aside the opinions of people who didn’t know me but felt that I would be great because they thought my father was, too.
So, I was developed a very concrete sense of who I am, and how I am like my father and also different from my father.
I am like my father in the sense that I have extremely strong values and principles. And how I make choices or the way I work in politics is anchored in these values, and I am ready to take very unpopular positions on issues that are close to my heart. In the last election, for example, I defended the fact that a person, a Canadian, convicted of terrorism should not lose their Canadian citizenship. That is a very unpopular position. But intellectually, in terms of values, it is essential to underscore the fact that we do not have two different categories of Canadians: Canadians whose citizenship can be taken away because they have a parent who was born in another country, and Canadians whose citizenship cannot be taken away because they have been here for generations.
So being anchored in my strong and precise values has been a huge help in choosing my path as a leader. Respectful of the opinions of others, but not always swayed by what is popular or unpopular.
On the other hand, I am different from father in the sense that I have spent much more time as a member of Parliament. I had to win a nomination, to run in my riding of Papineau. I had to learn to work door‑to‑door with people, to listen to people.
My father entered politics as an intellectual, with ideas that really were already … already well formed about bilingualism, about the Charter of Rights, about multiculturalism. And he had his priorities. I have spent much more time as a teacher listening, working collaboratively with others, and respecting this wonderful reality that everyone can have good answers, not just the Prime Minister.
Thank you very much for your question.
JADE VERMETTE: Hi, my name is Jade Vermette. I am a student at (inaudible) Wyatt High School. My question is what is the government planning on doing to help support people leaving with challenges to gain meaningful employment?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you very much for your question, Sophie. Thank you, Jade. The fact is it’s really important for a country like Canada that prides itself on being an open country in which everyone has a real and fair chance to succeed to look at all the barriers that exist to different people succeeding.
And that’s why one of the things that I’m very, very proud of is that we have a Minister for Sport and for Persons with Disabilities, who’s not here today, but Carla Qualtrough, who is a Paralympian, who won medals in the Paralympics in years past, and is now tasked with creating an accessibility act, legislation that will govern Canada in terms of ensuring that everyone, regardless of their challenges, has fair opportunities to succeed. Not just to succeed for themselves, but to succeed in participating in work and community, and mostly contributing, offering what you have to shape the community around you and your world. And that for me for a country of 36 million people faced with a world of seven billion, the fact is we need to get the very best out of every Canadian. And I look forward to bringing forward that accessibility act probably by the end of next year because we need to make sure we get it right and we’re doing a lot of consultations.
Actually a couple of days ago, I was with Carla at Carleton University doing a national youth consultation on the issue of disabilities and challenges, and I’m really, really happy that we’re working hard on that to give you and all Canadians every chance they can to contribute and succeed. Thank you, Sophie.
RAPHAEL GILL (Du Versant High School): Well, first of all, hello, Mr Trudeau. My name is Raphael Gill. I attend Du Versant High School in Gatineau. So, first of all, the high school and I want to thank you for having us here. It is truly a privilege. Now, my question, in your opinion, what is the place of youth aged 15 to 17 within our government? And what is a feasible solution to involve us in social and political issues and how can we be encouraged to get involved, knowing that we will be your next voters in the 2019 election?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Absolutely. Well, I think it’s essential to involve youth, and for several ways. First of all, I’ve been a teacher, I’ve been a youth spokesperson throughout my career for the Liberal Party. Seeking out youth and involving them and getting them a little more interested in politics is now just because you want more people to vote, although that would be good. It’s also because if a government or politicians listen to youth on the major issues that are important to you, how you will succeed in life, your careers, how you will be able to start a family and start your future, how you’ll be able to have a healthy environment, a more peaceful world, these are major issues that you care tremendously about. And if we can get you to participate more in politics, politics will respond more to your concerns, because one of the big myths about youth is that they’re not interested in what’s going on in the world.
But on the contrary, you are part of a generation that is more interested, more engaged, more connected than any generation. The challenge is to get you interested in the world. We need to rise to the challenge as a government and as politicians to welcome you, to listen to you, to involve you in decision-making.
That’s why I established the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, which brings youth aged 16 to 24 here to Ottawa to work with me on major issues. Whether it’s challenges facing students, or involving technology and Internet neutrality, or involving mental or environmental health, I want to directly engage more young people.
But in addition, we need to show in everything we do that the voice of youth, the perspective you bring, is essential. I am pleased that Elections Canada is looking at how we’ll be able to work more with youth before they become voters so that they already develop in the school environment the habit of being involved at election time, because we have opportunities to bring you closer to that, but also to use different technological means, social media, to have conversations everyone can take part in.
You can become a member of a political party at 14, but on that I know that the Liberal Party, it’s open starting at 14. And I think it’s equivalent for the other parties. We are already encouraging you to get involved. As Bardish said, she began to get involved in politics long before she had the right to vote. So understanding that your voices, the issues that you care about are important for us, must be heard, and we just expect you to get involved a bit more and we know that we need to create opportunities to involve you even more. We’ll be on the right track. Thank your for your question.
RAE TOTALES (Cairine Wilson Secondary School): Good morning. My name is Rae Totales (ph). I represent Cairine Wilson Secondary School in Orleans. My question is that I understand that you’ve taken away the tax credit to help families that make less than $50K per year who send their children to university with no tuition. But how would you make it more affordable for the families that make over $50K a year… that make over $50K a year with multiple children in university at the same time?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: That’s a great question. Actually one of the things that we did take away was the idea that tax credits help students make it through university. We recognize the cost of tuition, the difficult barriers that are there for post-secondary education. And we know that it is essential not just for you to be able to afford post-secondary education, but it’s important for your community and for our country that you be able to get the best and the most education that we can if we’re going to succeed.
So what we actually realized was tax credits on a post-secondary education didn’t necessarily go to the students. In many cases they go – because students don’t often pay taxes – they go to the parents. And we wanted to be much more direct in our support for students. And that’s why the money that we were using for tax credits we instead put directly towards Canada student grants, which means that low income students getting to university would have $1,000 more every year to help pay the costs of everything from rent to tuition to books, to everything. And middle income students would also see increase by 50 per cent that direct support we’re giving in terms of, you know, cash to be able to spend on things that matter when those expenses are coming, and not get them back at tax time.
So that was a priority, something we could concretely do to give more money to the families that need it and to students who need it get through university in a… and post-secondary education in a much more efficient way.
We also guaranteed that you don’t have to start paying back any student loans until you’re making a job that pays you more than $25,000 a year. So there’s not that drag on you right away when you come out of post-secondary education and are just getting your feet finding your first job that you have to also deal with paying off your debt when we want you finding the best possible jobs.
So those are things we’re doing. There’s a lot more to do. I absolutely agree with it, and we are certainly working on that as well. But thank you very much for your question.
KARINA DELAVALLÉE (Franco-Cité Catholic High School): Hello. Let me introduce myself. Karina Delavallée.
AMÉLIE LACHANCE SOULARD (Franco-Cité Catholic High School): And I’m Amélie Lachance Soulard, and we attend Franco-Cité Catholic High School.
So, Franco-Ontarian youth, supported by our community, have been calling for a number of years for a Franco-Ontarian provincial university. And the Government of Ontario is moving toward a final decision.
KARINA DELAVALLÉE: So our question is as follows: Is the federal government prepared to contribute to the provincial effort to fund such a university? Also, Amélie and I would like to ask if you have the chance to take a selfie with us.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Ah, ah, ah!
KARINA DELAVALLÉE: When you have a chance.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Yes, at the end of the Town Hall, I’ll come see you and I’ll see a lot of students. I’ll go visit with you. But regarding Franco-Ontarian identity and pride, that’s something I understand very, very deeply. As you know, I am a proud Montrealer, a proud Quebecer. But because technically I was born in Ottawa when my father was prime minister, I am a Francophone, born in Ontario, and that makes me an honorary Franco-Ontarian, and I’m very proud of that.
Moreover, my children attend a Francophone public school here in Ottawa. So this community is extremely important for me.
So, the federal government is always there to support official‑language minorities throughout the country. It is a very important role for my party and also for the Canadian government, and I am always prepared to work with the provinces to strengthen and indeed to create institutions that will serve official-language minority communities, because it is important for identity and culture and the strength of our country. So I’m really looking forward to working with my provincial counterparts to see what we can do to ensure the strength and sustainability of these wonderful official-language minority communities.
Thank you very much for your questions.
So, thank you all for being here. I think this is a great way to highlight our first anniversary in government. But as I said, there’s a great deal of work to do. We’re looking forward to getting down to it and we always look forward to checking in with you, hearing your questions, and being a full partner with all of you when it comes to building a better Canada for everyone.
Thank you very much, everyone. Thank you.