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

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

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
253 new COVID-19 cases, 4 more deaths in Interior Health over the weekend

More than 1,000 cases in the region remain active

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
RCMP: Small tin saved Trail man from stabbing

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

School District 8 is asking the education ministry to stop making the Foundation Skills Assessment data public. File photo
Kootenay Lake School District requests education ministry make annual student assessments private

The district is concerned the data is being misused by the Fraser Institute

Nelson has begun 2021 with a small rise in COVID-19 cases. Illustration: BC Centre for Disease Control
Ten new cases of COVID-19 in Nelson area

The cases were reported for the week of Jan. 3 to 9

Zoey Uniat is now three months old. Photo: Submitted
Castlegar baby with rare disorder progressing towards coming home

Fundraiser for Zoey Uniat has raised more than $50,000

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Sunnybank
COVID-19 related deaths at Oliver, West Kelowna and Vernon senior care homes

Sunnybank, Heritage Retirement Residence and Noric House recorded deaths over the weekend

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Most Read