Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sharply condemned President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive actions on the international stage on Tuesday but avoided direct criticism of Donald Trump’s cozy relationship with the Russian leader.
Mr. Trudeau, whose government has frosty relations with the Kremlin, was asked at a press conference in Nova Scotia what he thought of the American President’s refusal to condemn Russian state interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
The Prime Minister ducked questions about Mr. Trump’s warm embrace of Mr. Putin in Helsinki on Monday after the U.S. President spent last week berating America’s NATO allies and criticizing Prime Minister Theresa May during an official visit to Britain.
“We condemn Russia and the way Vladimir Putin engages in international affairs,” Mr. Trudeau said, citing Russia military actions to prop up a murderous regime in Syria, its annexation of Crimea and the alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain. “Canada has always been clear and unequivocal in our condemnation of the actions of Vladimir Putin and Russia.”
The Prime Minister and Mr. Trump have been at odds since the G7 summit in Quebec when he criticized U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, leading the U.S. President to publicly denounce Mr. Trudeau. Three-way trade talks with the U.S., Canada and Mexico have been at a stalemate since the summit in June.
Mr. Trudeau told reporters that he would like to see Canada’s premiers work at removing interprovincial trade barriers at their annual meeting later this week, especially “at a time where there are challenges on trade with our largest trading partner.”
“It is kind of frustrating – not just for Canadians but for me – to see continued barriers to internal trade in Canada,” he said. “If we want to continue to demonstrate that we know free trade is good for citizens, good for workers, good for consumers, good for our economy, then we need to do a better job doing it here in Canada.”
Mr. Trudeau said there is a “tremendous amount of goodwill among many premiers” to strengthen the economy by tearing down internal barriers.
The Prime Minister also said he was concerned about the loss of Greyhound bus service in the Prairie provinces. He has asked Transport Minister Marc Garneau to work with communities and the company to “see what paths forward there are.”
Mr. Trudeau, who will shuffle his cabinet on Wednesday, was unwilling to speculate on possible changes. He was asked whether Fisheries Minister Dominic Leblanc, who is under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner in the awarding of a snow crab licence in New Brunswick, would be moved to another portfolio. He declined to answer.
The shuffle is expected to see a larger cabinet than the current 30 members in what is likely the last shakeup before next year’s election. It is not expected to involve the movement of senior cabinet ministers, such as Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
However, Liberal sources suggest Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, who has been criticized for weak performance in this cultural portfolio, is expected to be moved to another portfolio. Science Minister Kirsty Duncan is expected to be promoted.
There is speculation that former Toronto police chief Bill Blair will get a portfolio in charge of the cannabis implementation file. Liberal insiders also speculate that rookie MPs Joël Lightbound from Quebec, Markham MP Mary Ng, a former Trudeau adviser, and B.C. MP Jonathan Wilkinson could be tapped for cabinet jobs.