Trudeau: where is the Canadian consensus on immigration headed, believes Liberal job is to protect that consensus

By Staff

January 21st, 2024



Excerpts from an excellent interview by Toronto Star reporter Susan Delacourt who met with the Prime Minister in Guelph on January 12, 2024.

Who does Trudeau seek out when times get tough, as they have so often over the past year?

“Define ‘tough times,’ because that sounds like Monday to me,” Trudeau said when he sat down with me for a wide-ranging, one-on-one interview last week. “Every day is tough. We’re running a country in a really, really complex time.”

Canada is in the midst of a housing and affordability crisis, which Trudeau’s critics — and there are many of them — are all too eager to pin on him.

Trudeau has said repeatedly that he doesn’t intend to walk away from his job or any of these challenges, so we didn’t waste a lot of time in this interview talking about whether he would — or should — pack it in.

Trudeau is concerned about where the Canadian consensus on immigration is headed, for instance, as people start to make connections between the influx of newcomers and demands on an already overloaded housing market and health-care system.

“I’ve long said that one of the most important responsibilities of any Canadian prime minister of government is to protect that consensus,” he said. “We are facing a real challenge around that right now.”

This is why Poilievre has been talking about tying immigration levels to housing, and why Immigration Minister Marc Miller has been talking about putting more stringent conditions on the inflow of foreign students and temporary workers.

However, Trudeau added, “One of the challenges around getting more housing built is having more construction workers. And one of the challenges we have around wait times in our health-care system is getting more health-care workers. We know that shutting down immigration would not even be a theoretical answer to that.”

In other words, it’s complicated.

Last spring, Trudeau made a remarkable admission — or, at least, one you don’t hear prime ministers make that often. He acknowledged that there are Canadians out there who aren’t going to take his word for anything, no matter what he says.

So in this interview, I asked him what he was going to do about that — or whether, in fact, there was anything he could do about it.

“First of all, there are people who don’t listen to anything any politician is going to say, and that is certainly increasing,” he said. It goes hand in hand, Trudeau believes, with the fragmentation of the media landscape and the decline in traditional journalism. “If you don’t believe politicians, you don’t believe a prime minister, you don’t believe all the assembled newspapers and media outlets that are recording what the prime minister is doing. It becomes harder and harder to break through.”

A thoughtful long-time Liberal said to me last year that Trudeau and his team had a full grasp on all the antagonism out there toward them. How could they not? Trudeau is dogged by those angry protests everywhere he goes.

This Liberal, however, was worried Trudeau doesn’t appreciate the apathy and indifference toward the government and how people may be tuning out whatever they say after eight long years in office.

“I certainly get the indifference,” Trudeau said. “The challenge of the Liberal party as a centrist, a centre-left party, is that we don’t have those fringes within the party on the far left, or on the far right, that are mobilized and activated about politics all the time.”

It’s the old dilemma of being in the middle — it’s hard to fire people up about standing in the centre. Trudeau does believe, however, that Liberals are up against something relatively new in this climate, which he calls opinion-as-identity politics.

“I don’t think that was a feature too much of other times in politics–where what you think about something actually creates the circles and the people that you actually associate with, and it defines who you are.”

He also believes that there’s a worldwide shift under way within conservatism and on the right, both in Canada and on the larger world stage. Traditional conservatism leaned a lot on respect for institutions and expertise and authority, Trudeau said, but “this particular brand of conservatism that seems to be spreading … doesn’t seem to be much about respecting institutions or protecting institutions … It’s almost anti-institutionalism; it’s anti-expertise, it’s anti-authority.”

Many prime ministers, especially the longer they serve in office, say they pay no attention to the media or the polls. Jean Chrétien, for instance, said he never watched the news before bed and Stephen Harper made no secret of his antipathy to the parliamentary press gallery.

Trudeau says he still is a consumer of the media, although he counsels all newcomers to politics to pay little attention to social media.

“But it really is important to be aware of how people are feeling out there … because it does impact your ability to do the job — not how you feel about the job, but how you’re able to actually succeed in the projects that you’re putting forward.”

He said he is not too fussed about all the talk of his unpopularity. “I think there’s a lot of people who are just rightly grumpy at the world right now … I think there’s all sorts of things that are happening that are difficult, (so) it’s got to be the prime minister’s fault.”

Trudeau also notes that he’s had a lifetime of training in ignoring personal attacks — and flattery. “I grew up in a situation where I had to brush aside people who hated me because they didn’t like my dad. But I also had to learn how to brush off people who loved me, because they loved my dad. Neither of those are necessarily real.”

Delacourt writes a regular column in the Toronto Star. An online subscription is available at:


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2 comments to Trudeau: where is the Canadian consensus on immigration headed, believes Liberal job is to protect that consensus

  • Joe Gaetan

    I would devote more time to developing a cogent response to the Liberals favorite wedge tool “ immigration”. As a progeny of immigrants I say give me a break as I am watching the Bills game. Since when does the Gazette carry water for a failed government¿ The consensus is Canada was and will be a welcoming country. One last thing the Liberal party before Trudeau 2.0 was centrist and is now left of the NDP. Justin needs to keep his Halton seats ergo his interview with Milton Delacourt.

  • David

    I read this story this morning and it’s been bugging me all day, the use of the word ‘ Consensus’ what an odd word to use for someone who is plummeting in the polls, and for someone, in his mind, has become the person he was portraying.
    The interview reminded me of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, Nero actually wasn’t fiddling, it was more a “If they don’t follow me they shall be destroyed by their ignorance”.
    Hitler in the last days of WW-2 enacted the ‘Nero Decree’ whereby all of Germany was to be destroyed, he stated that the German people ‘deserved to perish’.
    The book ‘Imperial Ideology and Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire’ by Clifford Aldo, was where, in an explanation of Romes downfall and the emperors use of the word consensus to mean a consensus of the ruling class, and not the actual citizens of Rome.
    Why did the empire last so long? The book argues that the longevity of the empire rested not on Roman military power but on a gradually realized consensus that Roman rule was justified.
    (6)This chapter examines the process of creating consensus in the Roman Empire. It investigates three social dramas that implicitly or explicitly invoked and expressed the consensus of the provincials and suggest that Rome invoked and sought consensus through means more disparate than communicative actions. It analyzes the use of acclamations to express consensus and the slow trend toward recording and publicizing acclamations and argues that each of these rather different political rituals strongly suggests that the Roman government could achieve consensus, as it defined that concept, only by developing and exploiting sophisticated mechanisms for the distribution of information.
    Interviews about consensus and justifications including the common good conducted by todays Roman equivalent of ‘distributors of information’ historically end up being catastrophic for its citizens.