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Trudeau Takes Questions At National Press Gallery Theatre In Departure From Harper

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NICHOLAS KAMM via Getty Images
NICHOLAS KAMM via Getty Images

"I'll be back."

With those three words, incoming prime minister Justin Trudeau offered hope to reporters in the parliamentary press gallery and, perhaps, any else who think the sight of a leader answering questions is an important piece of a healthy democracy.

On Tuesday — hours after capturing a stunning majority government — the Liberal leader hightailed to Ottawa to take questions from journalists at the National Press Gallery Theatre.

The symbolism was not lost. Harper used the space just seven times during his tenure and hasn't been seen there since 2009, according to FactsCan.

Harper's relationship with the national press gallery was often seen as adversarial. His Conservative Party even raised money on the notion "media elites" wanted to see him defeated.

While many reporters tweeted about Trudeau's move, a post from veteran CBC journalist Terry Milewski might have summed things up most succinctly.

"This is odd. There's a prime minister taking questions in the National Press Theatre with a journalist chairing," Milewski wrote.

Trudeau informed reporters that he will become prime minister and see a leaner cabinet sworn in on Nov. 4 that will feature an equal number of men and women.

The Liberal leader was also asked how quickly he would move to call a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

"I look forward to sitting down with various stakeholders, chiefs, including (Assembly of First Nations national chief) Perry Bellegarde, obviously. And ensuring we move forward. There have been a number of different initiatives put forward, somewhat piecemeal across the country.

"I believe that there is a need for a national public inquiry to bring justice for the victims, healing for the families, and to put an end to this tragedy."

He told reporters that he spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama about the Keystone XL pipeline and the Liberals' plan to end Canada's bombing mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Trudeau said Obama opened up about the challenges of running a country while also raising a young family. The U.S. president apparently told Trudeau he could expect to see some grey hairs sprouting soon enough.

He did not provide concrete timelines for his pledge to accept more refugees from Syria.

Trudeau took 'a whole whack of questions' on campaign trail

On the campaign trail, the Liberal leader made a point of taking a "whole whack of questions" from reporters after his announcements. The move stood in stark contrast to Harper who typically took four or five questions after his events.

In doing so, Trudeau may have helped beat back the narrative that he lacked the stuff needed to become prime minister — and that he wasn't, as the Tory attack ads claimed, "ready."

And in one memorable moment, Trudeau even scolded his own supporters after they began to groan about a journalist's question on the resignation of the Liberal campaign co-chair.

"Hey! We have respect for journalists in this country," he said, turning toward them. "They ask tough questions and they're supposed to. OK?"

A Globe and Mail reporter shared a brief clip of the moment online.


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that Harper had reportedly used the space three times during his tenure. This version has been updated.

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