Prime Minister Trudeau delivers remarks at the Rio Tinto AP60 Technology Centre
Hello, everyone. Thank you for being here today. I just finished touring the Rio Tinto facilities in Jonquière alongside Premier Philippe Couillard. Thank you, Philippe, for always being there for us and for workers. We had the opportunity to speak with the workers and hear what they think about the tariffs being proposed by the American government.
Before I go any further, I would like to thank Hélène Laroche and Gervais Jacques for welcoming us earlier today. And thank you to all of the workers who shared with us both their concerns and the expectations they have of their governments during this time of uncertainty. I really appreciate it, and both my team and I found it very useful.
I know that last week was particularly trying for those in the industry and their families. Steel and aluminum tariffs being imposed by the American government threatened to have serious consequences for Canada’s economy and, above all, its workers. It is not something that our government took lightly. We worked tirelessly to defend our industry and protect Canadian jobs.
Of course, our American neighbours are historic partners, our long-standing allies. They are friends we have been able to count on in the past and we will continue to work with them. The strength of our connections and the proximity of our countries have implications in almost every sector, and the steel and aluminum industries are no exception. As Minister Freeland stated last week, U.S. armoured vehicles are made from Canadian steel and fighter jets from our aluminum.
In fact, there is no better illustration of the close relationship between the Canadian aluminum industry and U.S. national security than CFB Bagotville. It was built in 1942 to protect aluminum smelters and hydro-electric projects in the area during World War Two. In the 1950s, the base served as a training location for Canada-U.S. squadrons, which became NORAD in 1958. And even today, defending the Saguenay is the motto of the third squad.
Canada has a special relationship with its neighbours to the south, and we want to nurture it and expand it going forward. But make no mistake about it, we are here for our citizens, our workers and their interests, first and foremost.
Last week we did what we have always promised to do, no matter what the situation. We put Canadian interests first. And thanks to the hard work of an incredible team, Canada has been given an exemption on steel and aluminum tariffs until further notice. And rest assured that we will keep working towards a definitive, permanent exemption for Canadian aluminum and steel exports with the same energy and drive that we have seen in recent weeks.
We know that challenges lie ahead with respect to the global overcapacity in the aluminum and steel industries and the risk posed by an increase in unfair export practices. Protecting Canadian workers’ jobs remains our top priority, and we are ready to take action.
On that point, I would again like to express my gratitude for the effort being made by our provincial premiers, business owners, unions and parliamentarians across all party lines.
Make no mistake. This was a true team Canada effort and it will continue to be moving forward. The exemption represented a positive step in the right direction, but we still have a lot more work to do. But know that we will continue to pull out all the stops to get the best possible results for Canadians and their families. We had your backs last week and we always will.
Once again, thanks to the entire Rio Tinto team for having us. You are the backbone of our economy and we will continue to do everything we can to defend the interests of Canadian workers.