On this weekend’s FAREED ZAKARIA GPS, host Fareed Zakaria spoke with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in the Prime Minister’s first interview with a non-Canadian media organization. The wide-ranging interview covered the Syrian refugee crisis, military action and air strikes against ISIS, and how falling oil prices are impacting Canada’s economy.
MANDATORY CREDIT for reference and usage: “CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS”
WEB EXTRA: Will TRUDEAU end Canada’s air strikes against ISIS?
WEB EXTRA: TRUDEAU on how the collapse of oil prices will impact Canada’s economy
FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN GPS: Every year at Davos, there’s a country that stands out, attracting attention and admiration. This year it was not so much a nation, but a person.
Justin Trudeau, the new 44-year-old Prime Minister of Canada, was the star of the World Economic Forum. Hollywood actors and CEOs took selfies with him. Women seemed particularly impressed, perhaps because he has appointed a cabinet that is 50 percent female.
Trudeau is an unabashed liberal, with plans to legalize pot, raise taxes on the wealthy, and take climate change seriously. In doing this, he continues the legacy of his father, Pierre Trudeau, who was perhaps Canada’s most famous prime minister.
Davos was his debut on the world stage, and my interview was his first with a non-Canadian broadcaster.
ZAKARIA: Mr. Prime Minister, you campaigned on the idea that you were going to do deficit spending to build infrastructure; that you were going to reverse Canada’s denial on climate change issues and embrace an active climate change policy, despite the fact that Canada is a major oil producer; a new inclusion policy for aboriginals in Canada; tolerance even in the face of terrorism — there’s this remarkable moment, I remember, in the campaign, when there was talk about — Prime Minister Harper said one should strip Canadians who are affiliated with ISIS of their citizenship, and you said no, you disagreed with that, because you didn’t think the government should have the power to determine who is a Canadian or not in that fashion. So I guess my question is, how on earth did you get elected? [LAUGHTER]
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: I spent the past eight years as a politician having honest, open conversations with Canadians in which I listened an awful lot.
And from a young age, I had the opportunity, while my father was prime minister, to travel across the country and meet with people and listen to people and understand the values, the positivity, the optimism that underscores Canadians’ worldview.
So in this election, at a time where so much has been made about the power of attacks in politics, of strategic division, of negativity as a powerful motivator to get people out to vote, we decided that by presenting a positive vision, not only, if it worked out, would we be able to get elected, but we would then have the kind of strong and inclusive mandate to provide a positive and good government for Canadians.
So our focus on this was very much, let’s bring forward who Canadians are and want to be instead of focusing on what we’re scared of, and I think that has served us in good stead.
ZAKARIA: Do you worry that if there are a few more terror attacks like the one in Paris, of course like the one that took place in Canada itself, it will be difficult to maintain your policy of tolerance and inclusion and, you know, the welcoming of refugees. You’ve already slowed that down slightly.
TRUDEAU: I think people are open to not choosing to live in constant fear. There’s — there are terrible things in the world, terrible people who want to attack our free and open societies.
And we have to make a choice about how much we are going to close and limit and crack down within our societies in order to protect it, because if you do that too much, you lose part of the free and open nature of society.
And I have a tremendous level of confidence in ordinary people who go through their lives, don’t think a lot about politics, don’t think a lot about terrorism, think a lot about their families, about their job, about their future, and about their community, and want to see things work in the right way.
And yes, one of the primary responsibilities of any government is to keep its citizens safe. But one of the other primary responsibilities is keep us free and true to our values.
And getting that balance right in a responsible way, as opposed to a way that raises fears and anxieties, is I think what people are looking for.
ZAKARIA: When you look at the — at the Western world today, it seems as though there are problems in Europe, the United States is facing some new challenges — I’m talking economically now. Do you worry that we are in for another global recession?
TRUDEAU: I can’t help but being tremendously optimistic. You know, conversations like I’ve had here, like I’ve had with business leaders across the country over the past months, with — conversations I’ve had with Canadians — people are very optimistic about the challenges that are coming and our capacity to build on them, to look at innovation, at the disruption that’s happening right now to many old models as an opportunity to create great advances.
Yes, there are — there are difficult times and, you know, there are many people around the world who are facing real challenges. But I have tremendous confidence in our capacity as governments, as private sectors, as citizens, to solve these challenges.
ZAKARIA: Is President Obama a model?
TRUDEAU: I think President Obama certainly showed that a progressive, intellectual, smart worldview can provide tremendous leadership. Obviously, there are — there are challenges in each country in getting that worldview into policy. But I’ve been very impressed with how he has — he’s reached out and drawn together a very empowering, cohesive vision for the future that will have long impact into the future in the United States.
ZAKARIA: You have had an extraordinary situation in which you are now in the office that you probably remember from the time you were four or five, six years old, when your father was prime minister. But you were not groomed to be prime minister. You went off and did all kinds of things, including being a snowboarding instructor.
What part of it has been — you know, what part of it has brought back memories the most now that you’re in this job?
TRUDEAU: Just the contact with Canadians, and that’s something all my life, whether it was as a school teacher or, yes, a brief stint as a — as a snowboard instructor, and, can I say, Davos is lovely, but you’ve got to come to Whistler. And there’s no time difference for Americans to come up to Whistler.
The fact is, meeting with Canadians and connecting with them on a values basis, on a positive, hopeful outlook, trusting Canadians and focusing on getting people to step up — I mean, my father always challenged us as his kids, but he challenged Canadians as well, to be better than we thought we are. And I find that very much the way he raised me to be as a person and now as a prime minister.
ZAKARIA: But he, your father, also always saw himself as having a role and a message larger than Canada. Do you believe you have a progressive voice that you want to spread beyond Canada?
TRUDEAU: Well, I think Canada — you know, I’m going to be typically Canadian and certainly say that it’s not my place to tell anyone what they should be doing or shouldn’t do. But I think Canada has a model that works fairly well at a time when people are looking for how to create pluralistic, successful communities in which there’s tremendous opportunity for everyone to succeed.
We’re working very, very hard on continuing that. We want to be positive players in the world. And I think it’s certainly nothing we can impose on everyone, but if we can showcase that solutions around harmonious, diverse communities are there to be had and there to be built and it’s easier to think positively toward each other and be open and respectful than it is to be angry and mean — I think that’s an important lesson to share with the world, and I’m glad to be sharing it.
ZAKARIA: Mr. Prime Minister, pleasure to have you on.
TRUDEAU: Real pleasure, Fareed.