May 19, 2016 / 11:53 PM / a year ago

HIGHLIGHTS-Interview with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau

OTTAWA, May 19 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested on Thursday that a C$30 billion budget deficit was not a hard limit as the government’s focus should be on spurring economic growth.

Below are excerpts from a Reuters interview with Trudeau on Thursday.

ON THE ECONOMY AND WHETHER HE WILL STICK TO A C$30 BILLION BUDGET DEFICIT CAP:

“Our frame is yes, we need to be fiscally disciplined, we need to be responsible, but we need to be investing in the right kinds of things at the same time, so the arbitrary picking a number and trying to stick with it is exactly what I campaigned against in the last campaign.”

“We’re going to invest in our communities, we’re going to make the kind of investments that will grow the economy, work very hard to be fiscally responsible and keep the deficits modest, but it’s not an obsession with the perfect number, it’s an obsession with the perfect, or the right, path to grow the economy in ways that help in the short term but lead us on the path towards prosperity in the medium and long term.”

ON DONALD TRUMP:

“I know that the relationship between Canada and the U.S. specifically but (also) between the U.S. and the rest of the G7 countries is greater than the personality of any one leader and I look forward to working with whomever the Americans elect this fall.”

ON THE ALTERCATION IN PARLIAMENT:

”What happened is I made a mistake. I intervened in a situation that I had no business engaging in and I regret it and I apologize. It’s not in keeping with the behavior that Canadians or anyone would expect of parliamentarians and I ask my colleagues and Canadians for forgiveness.

”People understand there is a tremendous amount of pressures that come with this job and I am human. I think at the same time, a big part of recognizing strengths and weaknesses is when you make a mistake, you admit it, you make amends, you ask for forgiveness and you make sure it never happens again. We’ve already started to change the approach in the House so that there is a more productive atmosphere.

”Quite frankly a lot of people said ‘Don’t worry about it, everyone has bad days’. But the people who know me said ‘OK, Justin, is there something bugging you? Is the atmosphere in the House getting particularly toxic?’ I said, you can’t separate one from the other but at the same time I made a poor judgment call in wanting to step in on a situation that I should have just let evolve without the prime minister thrusting himself into the middle of it.

”But I’ve often pointed out that I‘m someone who - where many people say ‘someone ought to do something’ - I’ve always been the person that takes that as ‘Oh well, I ought to do something’ and knowing when it’s better to not step in and maybe make things worse is something that I‘m pretty good at but as we’ve seen, I made a mistake last night.

ON BREXIT:

“I’ve spent my life taking about how bringing people together is better, pushing back against divisions and understanding that more unity is a path toward greater prosperity. We have a great relationship with a strong and united Europe and certainly hope that that continues.”

“Britain is always going to have clout, it’s just obviously amplified by its strength as part of the EU. Fundamentally, as I’ve said I believe we’re always better when we work as closely as possible together and separatism, or division, doesn’t seem to be a productive path for countries.”

ON WHETHER A NON-EU BRITAIN COULD EASILY NEGOTIATE A TRADE DEAL:

“The Canada-Europe free trade agreement, CETA, has taken successive governments the better part of a decade and a tremendous amount of positive good will and ... we’re still not there yet. I‘m working very hard to try and get that passed in the coming months because it is such a great deal for both sides. But there’s nothing easy or automatic about that (negotiating a deal), so I think there’s a bit of an oversimplification of the story happening there.”

ON BOMBARDIER :

“First of all, I am a huge supporter of the aerospace industry in Canada, it means great jobs right across the country and world-class innovation. We know the CSeries airplane, for example, is absolutely cutting edge and being hailed as an extraordinary new aircraft that there’s interest in right around the world. I believe in the strong future for the aerospace industry and am currently engaged with Bombardier on the best way we can ensure a strong and vibrant future for aerospace in Canada. But it will come as no surprise I‘m not going to negotiate in public.”

ON WHETHER THERE‘S A POINT WHEN THE GOVERNMENT WALKS AWAY FROM BOMBARDIER:

“I don’t think there’s any point at which you don’t want to build greater opportunities for the Canadian economy, that’s what we’re very much here for. We’re always open to looking at ways of strengthening and creating better jobs and better economic growth here in Canada.”

ON WHETHER OTTAWA WILL AID BOMBARDIER AT SOME POINT:

“The jobs associated with the aerospace industry, the kind of economic growth that comes with having high quality innovative jobs that are creating world class products is exactly where the Canadian economy needs to continue to go.”

ON WHETHER THE GOVERNMENT WOULD ALLOW CHINESE INVESTMENT IN THE CSERIES:

”Although we very much hope to draw in more foreign investment into the country, there are very strict rules around ownership of Canadian companies that would have to be very much complied with.

“I will look at any investment in terms of how it’s good for the Canadian economy, how it’s good to create Canadian jobs. Drawing in foreign investment can be a very, very positive thing for the Canadian economy but we’re going to make every judgment on a case-by-case basis, not in the theoretical or the hypothetical.”

ON WHETHER ABORIGINAL GROUPS HAVE A VETO OVER PIPELINES

”Whenever you get to a situation where a veto is even a question, you have failed in bringing people into the conversation at the right point. In the development of projects, in the building and elaboration of how things move forward, we need to make sure we’re folding in indigenous peoples, local communities, experts and scientists every step of the way ... (The previous government) thought governments can grant permits. Well, communities grant permission. Does that mean you have to have unanimous support from every community? Absolutely not.

”But it does mean you do have to reach out and involve voices from all communities, all different perspectives, in the elaboration of the project that people want to see.

”We know there are some folks who will always be opposed ... my role as a leader is to bring together the largest possible number of people representing the widest possible range of perspectives to a position that we can all be happy with.

“Everyone will have their chance to be heard, their chance to make robust arguments and contribute to the discussion and make us think or rethink the way we’re doing things or whether we’re doing things. This is a country where we respect a broad range of voices. But at one point we have to understand that you do what’s in the best interest of the country and its citizens writ large.”

Compiled by Ottawa newsroom

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