Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking at Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo on Thursday afternoon. (NICHOLAS PESCOD/News Bulletin)

PM says cabinet retreat focused on issues close to home for Canadians

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a press conference Thursday to close a cabinet retreat in Nanaimo

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said cabinet meetings this week were centred around ways to support the middle class, create jobs and grow the economy.

Trudeau and his ministers held meetings Wednesday and Thursday at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre as part of a cabinet retreat.

On Thursday, following the end of the retreat, Trudeau held a brief press conference, where he touched on some of the discussions that took place during the two-day event. He said his focus over the last 72 hours has been on the Canadian middle class and not on external matters such as former Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, who announced today that he would be leaving his party and forming a new one.

“Over these past three days, I’ve remained focused with my team on how we’re going to continue to serve Canadians to support the middle class and people working hard to join it,” Trudeau said. “To create growth in our economy that is bring people together and allaying anxieties and fears that people may have about where their kids are going to get jobs and what kinds of jobs are they going to be and how they prepare for their own retirement. These are questions that Canadians are asking every day and our government is focused on giving answers to the questions that Canadians have and on demonstrating that we’re entirely focused on them.”

The prime minister, who was in Prince George earlier this morning meeting with firefighters, also touched on the wildfire situation in British Columbia, explaining that the federal government is working “closely” with the provincial government and that a new ad-hoc cabinet committee will address the “urgent” and “long-term” impacts of the wildfires.

Trudeau, who did not mention Nanaimo during the press conference, was asked a variety of questions, including a question about housing affordability. He said there’s a role for the federal government to be a “full and active partner” with provinces and municipalities.

“For the past 10 years or so, or more than 10 years, the federal government had removed itself entirely from the housing file in general, from affordable housing more specifically. We think that’s wrong,” Trudeau said.

He said billions of dollars are being invested in affordable housing, including housing for seniors.

“The fact that far too many middle class Canadians can’t afford to live in the cities that they work in is simply unacceptable in a country like Canada,” he said.

Trudeau reiterated some of the same comments made by other minsters over the last 48 hours regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline and the North American Free Trade Agreement. He also touched on the situation and ongoing diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia.

“I think it is important to have positive relationships with countries around the world,” he said. “At the same time we have expressed our concern …. for defending human rights and our shared values all around the world. Canada will continue to stand up strongly for human rights, minority rights and our shared universal values even as we look to have positive relations, constructive relations with countries around the world.”

The PM said yesterday that the meetings were going great, and said this morning that ministers were working for Canadians.

Earlier today, ministers talked about the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Burnaby regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline, and immigration policy. For an article, click here.

Yesterday there were protests outside the conference centre as a few different groups organized a rally against the federal government’s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline. For an article and video, click here.

RELATED: Premier and prime minister talk about competing priorities

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