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Justin Trudeau targets billionaires, tech moguls at secretive Sun Valley conference

Thursday - 07/07/2016 06:19
Annual gathering in Idaho attracts some of the world's richest business leaders

Justin Trudeau will spend his day trying to sell Canada as a great place to do business to some of the world's biggest technology and media moguls.  

The prime minister is in Sun Valley, Idaho, at an annual conference for the global business elite.

Details about the gathering, hosted by the American investment firm Allen & Company, are typically kept secret, but insiders have described the event as "summer camp for billionaires." 

Cameron Ahmed, a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office, said Trudeau "is attending the conference with the goal of attracting investment to Canada."

But not much else is known about what is on Trudeau's agenda.

The trip was announced by the PMO with less than 24 hours' notice and the conference is closed to the media. 

Trudeau to meet with investors

A senior government source told The Canadian Press that Trudeau is going for the same reason he went to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and to New York.

The source said Trudeau was invited to speak to the largest investors in the world, whom he will try to convince to spend some of their money in Canada.

Sun Valley Conference
A view of the Sun Valley Lodge venue for the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The guest list is confidential, but reports suggest Microsoft founder Bill Gates will be there, along with business magnate Warren Buffet, Facebook chairman and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, and Amazon's Jeff Bezos.

The exclusive meeting has been the setting for the beginning of corporate deals over the years, including the $4.4-billion sale of AOL to Verizon.

2nd Canadian PM to attend Sun Valley

Trudeau is not the first Canadian prime minister to attend this event.

In 2004, Paul Martin flew to Idaho shortly after the Liberals won a minority government. 

"I won't talk to you about who was there," the former prime minister told CBC News, adding that "it's a very informal thing, but quite clearly, the discussion was very acute and on the point."

Paul martin
In 2004, Prime Minister Paul Martin attended the Sun Valley conference,
pitching Canada's softwood lumber market to the economic elite.
(Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

When Martin attended the conference he pitched Canada's softwood lumber industry to the world's economic elite.

Asked if he had any insight into what Trudeau might be pushing Wednesday, Martin didn't have any specifics.

"I'm sure that [Trudeau] is going to be the centre of the debate, and deal with the issues he thinks are important, so he will respond to the issues that his audience thinks are important."

Martin said he has confidence in Trudeau's ability to sell Canada to this niche audience.

"He will do very, very well. I've seen him on occasions such as this, and he handles himself with great skill … he'll look upon this audience as one that effectively can carry that message beyond the conference, and he'll do it very well."

'Betraying' the middle class

The Conservative Party says taxpayer dollars should be spent elsewhere.

In a release from the Office of the Official Opposition, the party criticizes Trudeau, saying "while the Liberal government cancelled tax credits for parents who enrol their kids in sports and arts activities, there is apparently enough taxpayer money to send Justin Trudeau to summer camp for billionaires."

After several requests, no Conservative MPs were available for an interview. 


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