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Five things we learned from Justin Trudeau’s interview with the New York Times at U of T

Five things we learned from Justin Trudeau's interview with the New York Times at U of T
Photograph by Ian Willms for The New York Times

Yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Rotman School of Management for an interview with the New York Times’ chief White House correspondent, Peter Baker. In the audience were students who won tickets in a random draw, local and international suits, and prominent political figures like Adrienne Clarkson (outside the conference room, throngs of student fans cheered and waited for selfie opportunities). Catherine Porter, the Times’ new Toronto bureau chief, chatted with Baker and Trudeau on the topic of the day—Canada-U.S. relations in the Trudeau-Trump era—for 40 minutes before turning the mic over to the crowd for questions. Here, five things we learned from the relatively candid discussion.

Trudeau’s international relations strategy is more of a “bun” than a “doughnut” A Times column posted yesterday said Trudeau was organizing a grassroots network of American officials, lawmakers and businesses to contain Trump’s protectionist impulses—and compared the strategy to a doughnut, with the White House as the missing centre. When asked if that was true, Trudeau said that, although his team does work closely with various levels of government and industry in all states, he’s still very much interested in working directly with Trump. “So it’s actually more of a bun—there’s no hole,” he said. On what it’s like having telephone meetings with Trump, Trudeau said they’re much more impromptu than during Obama’s administration, and that Trump is actually a very good listener (the latter comment got more than a few cynical chuckles).

That running photo in Vancouver was only sort of staged After Trudeau’s photographer snapped a pic of him running past a group of prom students in May, the internet accused the PM of staging the photo op. Trudeau cleared the air by stating that he regularly goes for runs while on the road with his photographer, who’s also a runner (and evidently doesn’t mind running with his camera). Before the photo was snapped, he jokingly faked ripping off his shirt. Then, he ran by the group and posed for photos. “It was one of those things that just happened,” he said. “I do things. I’m an active person. I like people. I will stop for selfies.” Note to aspiring run-selfie recipients: he said he’ll be jogging through Mississauga while he’s in town.

Five things we learned from Justin Trudeau's interview with the New York Times at U of T
Photograph by Ian Willms for The New York Times

He doesn’t get cellphone notifications when Trump tweets When Porter asked Trudeau if he stays up at night reading Trump’s tweets to see what new trade war may be looming, the PM quipped back, “I tend to focus on my job. If something happens, I’ll hear about it in my morning briefing.” He did, however, admit that Trump’s Twitter habit is “a new wrinkle in international diplomacy.”

He’s a “bawler” When asked about his notorious theatre date with Ivanka Trump, Trudeau talked about their shared interest in advancing women in business, and then proceeded to admit he cried like a baby during the play Come From Away. “I cried repeatedly. I’m a bawler who just sobs. It’s not a good look for me,” he said. On whether Ivanka teared up at the story: “If she cried, she was much better at hiding it than I was.”

His bromance with Barack is still very much alive Speaking about his dinner with Obama in Montreal, Trudeau said, “Barack was less reflective about what he had been through and more interested in talking about next steps.” Obama said he was particularly interested in promoting the next generation of leadership and getting young people involved in their communities. Porter then mentioned that Obama was doing some sort of “G7 reunion tour” with all the people Trump has pissed off. Trudeau replied, “Well, I hope it was more about our general friendship than being some sort of pawn. I was glad to sit down with an old friend.”

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