TRUDEAU IN MU­NICH: ‘It’s time to pay a living wage, to pay your taxes,’ PM says at black-tie busi­ness gala

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MIKE BLANCHFIELD

HAM­BURG — Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau used one of Ger­many’s most pres­ti­gious black-tie galas to tell busi­ness lead­ers to “get real” about the ad­dress­ing the anx­i­eties of their work­ers in an uncer­tain world.

Trudeau de­liv­ered the no­holds-barred mes­sage to an au­di­ence of 400 politi­cians, busi­ness lead­ers and other no­ta­bles at the an­nual St. Matthew’s Ban­quet in the op­u­lent Ham­burg city hall.

The St. Matthew’s Ban­quet is a 700-year-old event in which the el­ders of the city-states in­vited for­eign guests to cel­e­brate their friend­ship. It has heard from kings, pres­i­dents, may­ors and oth­ers in what is now Ger­many’s sec­ond-largest city.

Last year, for­mer Bri­tish prime min­is­ter David Cameron ad­dressed the gath­er­ing and laid out his plan for bat­tling his coun­try’s Brexit forces. Cameron failed and Bri­tons voted to leave the Euro­pean Union, part of a global wave of dis­rup­tion that cul­mi­nated with Don­ald Trump’s sur­prise vic­tory in the Novem­ber pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Of­fi­cials say Trudeau was mind­ful of the whirl­wind global changes that have taken place since, espe­cially in Europe — ris­ing anti-trade re­sent­ment and a back­lash against im­mi­gra­tion — when he ac­cepted the in­vi­ta­tion to ad­dress the ban­quet.

Trudeau has spo­ken re­peat­edly in Europe this week about the need for politi­cians to ad­dress the “anx­i­eties” of work­ing peo­ple, who are fear­ful of the pace of change, and of be­ing left be­hind in the glob­al­ized world.

And he has spo­ken of the need for politi­cians to do a bet­ter job ex­plain­ing the tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits of agree­ments such as Canada’s free trade deal with the Euro­pean Union — a pact the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment rat­i­fied ear­lier in the week over the ob­jec­tions of a vo­cal civil so­ci­ety move­ment.

But the prime min­is­ter ramped up the mes­sage on Fri­day night in Ham­burg, all but telling the cor­po­rate elite seated be­fore him to shape up, and stop prof­it­ing at the ex­pense of their em­ploy­ees.

“No more brush­ing aside the con­cerns of our work­ers and our cit­i­zens,” the prime min­is­ter said in pre­pared re­marks. “We have to ad­dress the root cause of their wor­ries, and get real about how the chang­ing econ­omy is im­pact­ing peo­ple’s lives.”

He even adopted some of the lan­guage of anti-trade move­ments. “When com­pa­nies post record prof­its on the backs of work­ers con­sis­tently re­fused full-time work — and the job se­cu­rity that comes with it — peo­ple get de­feated,” he said.

“In­creas­ingly, in­equal­ity has made cit­i­zens dis­trust their gov­ern­ments, dis­trust their em­ploy­ers. It turns into ‘us ver­sus them.’”

Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Sig­mar Gabriel called Trudeau a friend of Europe and praised the Canada-EU free trade deal as an an­swer to the “new na­tion­al­ism” in the United States.

Trudeau said the anx­i­ety of work­ing peo­ple is turn­ing into anger, and politi­cians and busi­ness lead­ers need to take heed and take “long-term re­spon­si­bil­ity” for work­ers, their f am­i­lies, and the com­mu­ni­ties in which they op­er­ate. “For busi­ness lead­ers, it’s about think­ing beyond your short-term re­spon­si­bil­ity to your share­hold­ers,” Trudeau said.

“It’s time to pay a living wage, to pay your taxes. And give your work­ers the ben­e­fits — and peace of mind — that come with sta­ble, full-time con­tracts.”

He said em­ploy­ers can’t leave their em­ploy­ees feel­ing “over­worked and un­der­val­ued” and must find ways to help them “mod­ern­ize their skills for a chang­ing world.”

Trudeau said he un­der­stood the “irony of preach­ing about the strug­gles of the mid­dle class to a sea of tuxe­does and ball gowns, while wear­ing a bow-tie my­self.”

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