So the tinfoil hats comment, you don’t regret?
“When someone believes that your government is trying to inject a vaccine in you to control your mind and track you, and there’s a microchip in it, that’s almost the definition of a government conspiracy theory that you wear a tinfoil hat to protect your brain from brainwaves. It’s a frame that when people fall into conspiracy theories, we need to call them out on that,” was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s response.
This was one of the highlights from Chief News Anchor and Senior Editor of CTV National News Omar Sachedina’s year-end interview with Trudeau, which aired Saturday evening.
Sachedina was referring to the prime minister stating amid the “Freedom Convoy” protests that if those in “tinfoil hats” choose to reject science, they have to live with the consequences of their choice.
Asked if Trudeau felt he did everything he could to lower the temperature at the time, the prime minister revealed that he was unrepentant for his comments towards anti-vaxxers.
“I don’t, and I won’t apologize for calling out people who were harming their fellow Canadians,” he said.
This was just one of the most notable moments from the special. In no particular order, here are eight key takeaways from the conversation.
1) FUTURE INFLATION AID TO BE TARGETED
Trudeau said the federal government is anticipating that the first half of 2023 is “likely to be tough,” but should there be further need for economic assistance, the Liberals won’t be moving off of their “targeted” approach.
Trudeau defended his decision to focus his latest round of affordability aid– the GST tax credit rebates and dental and rental benefits – as having a “negligible, if any, impact on inflation.”
He indicated any future fiscal help would be similarly focused on those with lower incomes, or specifically impacted sectors.
“Depending on how hard the global challenges hit in Canada and who it hits, we will be able to be there with appropriate and targeted supports for the people who need it most,” Trudeau said.
2) UNAPOLOGETIC FOR ANTI-VAX RHETORIC
The prime minister has faced scrutiny in 2022 over how he spoke about Canadians who were anti-vaccination, and about those who participated in the “Freedom Convoy” protests who shared hateful or violent views.
In the interview, he was asked whether he regretted stating that the protesters were part of a fringe who believed in conspiracy theories and wear tinfoil hats.
In short, his answer was no.
He pointed to examples of families sitting around the bedside of a loved one who was dying from COVID-19 “saying: ‘oh my God, I wish you’d just taken the vaccine, I wish you hadn’t listened to all those YouTube channels.'”
“Like this is real. There were real tragedies and there were people trying to gin that up and to expand the divisions, and the fear, and sense of conspiracy that were out there,” Trudeau said.
3) WHAT PREOCCUPIES HIM ABOUT DEATH THREATS?
In one of his longer, but somewhat revealing responses, Trudeau said that despite the increasing violent vitriol directed at him, he doesn’t take it personally.
Instead, he says it drives him to try to reassure the “awful lot of people who are hurting” that Canada’s institutions are there for them. This taps into some of his recent messaging about Canada not being broken.
“So yes, some people are mad and lashing out. For me, every time I hear someone say that, my reflection is okay, how can I reassure you that Canadians will continue to be there for you? That we’re going to build a better future,” he said. “There’s reasons to be positive and optimistic about the country and about the future, because that’s who Canadians are.”
4) WON’T FUND ‘BROKEN’ HEALTH SYSTEM WITHOUT A PLAN
This political year is expected to include a concerted focus on the state of Canada’s health-care system and the provinces’ continued calls for more funding from Ottawa. In the interview, Trudeau outlined what benchmarks he’s going to need before loosening up federal purse strings, something he confirmed willingness to do.
“We’re going to send more, but we need to see real improvements. We need to see results and outcomes… But I also understand that if I don’t stand strong and say, ‘you have to fix your system, you can’t just put more money into it,’ Canada won’t see those changes happen at the provincial level.”
While conceding that the pan-Canadian health-care system is “strained, if not broken” the prime minister said before he agrees to sit down with premiers, he wants to see “the outlines of a deal” that includes accountability for how his counterparts will spend the increased health funding.
5) PEACE IN UKRAINE WON’T BE ON RUSSIA’S TERMS
As the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nears, the prime minister was asked what he thinks it will take to end the war.
The prime minister said that based on a recent conversation he had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, “there is a plan for peace,” but that “it will not be on Russian terms.”
“It will be on Ukrainian terms,” Trudeau said, pointing out how he believes that despite Vladimir Putin’s “disinformation” Russian citizens are “tiring” of the war.
“Russia made the terrible miscalculation of thinking they could invade a peaceful neighbour and get away with it,” said the prime minister.
6) DEFENDS INTERACTION WITH CHINA’S XI
Asked about one of the most memorable and diplomatically-dissected moments he had on the world stage in 2022—a widely-watched interaction with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Indonesia—Trudeau said he was speaking “directly and frankly.”
In this section of the interview Trudeau also spoke about what he thinks led up to the Canada-China relationship ending up in the place it has, and there was certainly some sass in his response.
“Do we point to the Michaels first, and hostage diplomacy or coercive diplomacy as a part of the low point?” he said, referencing the arbitrary detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
“Do we talk about many of the allegations of interference in so many different parts of our lives? Chinese-Canadian communities consistently facing tensions and stresses from the Chinese government? There are long and many reasons why there is tension there,” said the prime minister.
7) THINKS ‘IT SUCKS’ WHEN ETHICS BREACHES HAPPEN
In what was one of his most causal responses during the interview, Trudeau said that while “it sucks” that members of his cabinet breach ethics, the fact the public knows about them is a sign the system is working.
Over the course of his time as prime minister, Trudeau and members of his cabinet have been found to have breached federal ethics rules a handful of times, with almost no consequence. Under the federal Conflict of Interest Act there are no penalties for being found in contravention of the rules, because the Act, as it is currently written, doesn’t allow for them.
“We have a system that has the kind of accountability and transparency that works and that is clear to reassure Canadians that if someone is taking advantage of the system — either deliberately or by accident — they’ll get caught and called out on it. And that’s an example of the institutions working,” Trudeau said.
8) SOME HUNTING GUNS WILL BE TAKEN AWAY
After the government’s gun control legislation Bill C-21 became the centre of controversy this fall over an amendment that would enshrine in law a definition for “assault-style” weapons, Trudeau promised that fine-tuning would be happening to the proposal in 2023.
However, in attempting to outline what that might look like, the prime minister made it clear that despite some suggestions otherwise, the Liberals will be going after some firearms used for hunting.
“Our focus now is on saying okay, there are some guns, yes, that we’re going to have to take away from people who were using them to hunt,” Trudeau said.
“But, we’re going to also make sure that you’re able to buy other guns from a long list of guns that are accepted that are fine for hunting, whether it’s rifles or shotguns. We’re not going at the right to hunt in this country. We are going at some of the guns used to do it that are too dangerous in other contexts.”
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