From climate change, to trade and transportation and the health of orca whales, Gov. Jay Inslee and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had much to talk about at their meeting Thursday in Seattle.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Gov. Jay Inslee met in Seattle Thursday, discussing everything from trade and business relationships to taking action on climate change.
The two men also discussed the health and safety of the Salish Sea, including the endangered southern resident orcas, and the prospect of a rescue tugboat for the Haro Strait.
But first, the two men, dressed in suits and meeting on the 28th floor of the Renaissance Seattle Hotel, mugged for cameras and gave brief, good-natured statements.
Trudeau, the charismatic teacher-turned-politician and son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, hailed his country’s relationship with Washington state.
“We’re both very strongly engaged on issues of climate change, on issues of openness to trade, on leadership on refugees as well,” said Trudeau. “And an understanding that diversity can be a real source of strength.”
Inslee, scheduled to leave later Thursday to join a trade mission to Mexico, called his meeting with Trudeau “fitting.”
“We share an incredible commitment to defeating climate change, and a recognition that we can grow our economies while doing that,” Inslee said. “And it is a great pleasure we have a national leader on the North American continent who is committed to that.”
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Afterward, the two leaders began a private meeting scheduled for 30 minutes, but actually lasted about 45 minutes, according to Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith.
Trudeau raised the issue of protecting the southern resident orca population, according to Smith.
The killer whales have struggle with pollution and noise from vessel traffic, and since 2005 they have been listed as endangered. At least five southern resident whales died last year.
Inslee, meanwhile, raised the prospect of Canada positioning a rescue tug for the Haro Strait, between San Juan and Vancouver islands.
Having such a tug, which could carry pollution cleanup gear and help stranded oil tankers, is one of a slate of recommendations that has been made by the Washington Department of Ecology.
The governor also expressed his gratitude for Canadian efforts to build a waste-treatment plant for Victoria.
Inslee and Trudeau weren’t the only ones expressing concern about the environment Thursday.
About a dozen demonstrators gathered outside the hotel to protest Trudeau and Canada’s extraction of oil from Alberta tar sands, chanting, “Water is life.”
“We’re fighting the tar sands, we’re fighting pipelines like the DAPL, the Dakota Access Pipeline,” said Janene Hampton, a 45-year-old Redmond resident who said she had spent time at the Standing Rock pipeline protests. “We’re protecting our water, we’re protecting our people, we’re protecting our children.”
The two progressive leaders also discussed efforts at regulating carbon, the prospects renegotiating parts of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and closer collaboration between the economies of Washington and British Columbia.
Both Inslee and Trudeau agreed on the need for high-speed rail between Vancouver and Seattle, and for more seaplane service, according to the governor’s office.
Last year, Inslee and officials from British Columbia — where Trudeau once taught math and French before entering politics — pledged to build closer relationships between their regional economies, which both host booming high-tech sectors.
As Inslee put it at the time: “There’s something special in the water of the Salish Sea.”
The discussions around climate change came with wildfire season approaching, a type of crisis both men have experienced firsthand.
Blazes last year forced tens of thousands of Canadians to flee their homes.
Canada is Washington state’s second largest destination for exports behind China, according to the state’s Commerce Department.
Bilateral trade between the Washington state and Canada totaled $19.8 billion last year, with $12.8 billion of that accounting for Washington imports from Canada.
Trudeau arrived in the state Wednesday to attend and speak at Microsoft’s CEO Summit in Redmond.
The event, which was closed to the public and media, focused on cybersecurity and the space race. Trudeau’s office said he was the first sitting head of government or state invited to address the summit and attended so he could promote Canada’s technology industry.