U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walk down the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, June 29, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Barack Obama says his approach to politics aligned with Justin Trudeau’s

Obama argued that U.S. and Canadian values are strongly aligned

Former U.S. president Barack Obama made a point of highlighting his admiration for Justin Trudeau on Wednesday, saying the prime minister’s approach to politics is close to his own.

Obama, who endorsed Trudeau toward the end of the recent federal election campaign, made the remarks during a one-hour question-and-answer session before a sold-out crowd of 9,000 at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.

The 58-year-old former president mentioned Trudeau and former prime minister Stephen Harper when he was asked to talk about the greatest challenges facing Canada-U.S. relations.

After a dramatic pause, which left the crowd nervously chuckling, Obama said he wasn’t too worried about Canada.

“Of all the things I stress about, U.S.-Canada relations are not high on that list,” he said. “Which is not to say there aren’t significant bilateral issues.”

Obama, dressed in a dark blazer and white dress shirt, noted that his two-term presidency — from 2009 until 2017 — overlapped with the Conservative government led by Harper and the Liberal government led by Trudeau, who first assumed power in 2015.

“Very different politics … and although my own politics are obviously much closer to Justin’s, we were able to do good work with Stephen Harper’s government on a range of issues, and on some we disagreed — and it was fine.”

Obama argued that U.S. and Canadian values are strongly aligned.

“Let’s face it,” he said. “When you guys show up in the U.S., we can’t tell you’re Canadian half the time. You’re kind of infiltrating us, and we don’t know it.”

Obama made headlines across Canada on Oct. 16 — five days before election day — when he tweeted his support for Trudeau, saying he was proud to work with the prime minister when he was president.

“He’s a hard-working, effective leader who takes on big issues like climate change,” the tweet said. “The world needs his progressive leadership now, and I hope our neighbours to the north support him for another term.”

The tweet energized the Trudeau campaign, but it also raised questions about political interference in the campaign.

Obama’s Halifax event took place against the backdrop of an historic day in Washington, D.C., where the first public hearing was held in the impeachment inquiry for U.S. President Donald Trump.

The House Intelligence Committee is looking into allegations the president planned to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless the new leadership agreed to investigate the son of Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Obama never mentioned Trump by name in Halifax, but he made a point of talking about polarization in politics and the dangerous internal trends that can develop into conflict.

“There were times where I felt as if the polarization we’re seeing, not just in the United States but in a lot of democracies around the world, has taken a dangerous turn. But what I’ve continued to insist on is that we have more in common than what separates us.”

He said there are two competing narratives about how societies organize themselves, the oldest of which is a tribal system in which “might makes right” and racial differences are viewed with suspicion and fear.

While this system inevitably leads to conflict, the more recent narrative preaches inclusiveness, caring for the weak and respect for women and those with different sexual orientations.

“The danger for Canada, for the United States and Western Europe is: how do you strengthen that second story?” he said. “If a nation is built around an idea of ‘us and them’ and it’s a zero-sum game based on power and ethnicity … sooner or later there’s a war.”

Reclining in a wing chair, his legs crossed and his collar open, Obama appeared relaxed as he offered his views about climate change, globalization, China, democracy and family life in the White House.

And he had plenty of good things to say about Canada.

“There is a spirit in Canada that is unique and worth feeling very good about,” he said. “The people here are still modeling the kind of civility and tolerance and thoughtfulness that is required for a democracy, and I hope that continues.”

Asked how he dealt with the stress of leading a superpower, Obama said: “I was pretty good at working out.”

He said he also believes he was good at making decisions about complex problems, but admitted that his darkest day in the Oval Office was Dec. 14, 2012, when a gunman used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 26 people — including 20 children — at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“I had to speak at a memorial just two days later with the parents,” he said, later referring to the “drumbeat of mass shootings” that occurred during his term in office.

“One of my biggest frustrations during my tenure as president was the inability for me to get Congress to respond in any meaningful way to that tragedy.”

Obama, the 44th president of the United States and the first African-American to hold the office, is on a speaking tour that started in St. John’s, N.L., on Tuesday and was to move on to Montreal on Thursday.

ALSO READ: Obama was born at B.C. Hospital, conspiracy theorists say

ALSO READ: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to meet with Trudeau today to discuss throne speech

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Coast company brings virtual whale watching experience to youth with disabilities

About 40 Easter Seals BC/Yukon children, youth and adults with disabilities were… Continue reading

Visitors and non-residents entering closed Hesquiaht territories

With limited resources, they say they don’t have any authority or power to enforce the closures

COVID- 19: Ucluelet encourages visitors and residents to mask up

“Put your ego aside, this is what needs to be done,” said Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel.

Frustration grows in Ucluelet as locked gate puts school garden in peril

“You walk by there and it’s just dead. Everything’s dry and yelling for water,” Liisa Nielsen said.

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

Canada vows retaliatory measures as Trump restores tariff on Canadian aluminum

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Canada ‘profoundly concerned’ over China death sentence for citizen in drug case

Police later confiscated more than 120 kilograms of the drug from Xu Weihong’s home

Cowichan RCMP use spike belts to end car chase — man in custody

The driver was arrested at the scene a short distance from his vehicle

Island youth starts virtual race against racism

Cailyn Collins says people can take part in the cause from anywhere

COVID-19 tests come back negative for remote First Nation

“There are no suspected cases in the community at this time.”

Answers to 5 common questions facing families for the COVID-19 school year

COVID-19 protocols are likely to vary even more at the school board level, and even and school-to-school.

UBC loses appeal on Fisheries Act convictions

BC Supreme Court upholds order to pay $1.55-million fine

Masks to be mandatory on BC Transit, TransLink starting Aug. 24

Both BC Transit and TransLink made the announcement in separate press releases on Thursday

Most Read