THERE is something seriously wrong with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who by all appearances is causing great harm to his country and its people. So why is it that Canadians re-elect him again and again?
Key to understanding him is his background. He is the spoiled rich kid of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who held office on and off from 1968 to 1984. Trudeau senior was flamboyant. He was outrageous in his personal life and daring in his policy initiatives. And he was ruthless and authoritarian, transforming for ever Canada’s political and constitutional landscape.
It is this legacy which Justin Trudeau seeks to repeat. The problem is that he lacks the qualities and qualifications which made his father successful, most notably his keen intelligence. Nor does he possess his father’s sterling education and legal experience. Before being elected to Parliament, Justin was a snowboard instructor and a secondary-school teacher. It was in this latter post that he appeared in a number of photographs cavorting in blackface – images which caused considerable scandal during the Black Lives Matter unrest in the US.
Trudeau junior does have some strengths: his handsome face (which matters to some voters), his last name (which still has great power), and his finely honed emotional intelligence, this being what psychologists view as the ability to be aware of, control and express your emotions as you manage interpersonal relationships. The man lights up a room with every person there firmly believing that he is talking directly to them.
Trudeau also is lucky in the country he leads. Canada now appears to be little more than a collection of interest groups, many of them dependent on government largesse. This makes it relatively easy to gain re-election by pandering to those groups most reliant on government aid, ensuring favourable media overage via massive subsidies, and skilfully undercutting opposition parties by stealing their programmes or using wedge issues (such as immigration, abortion and gay rights) to foster internal divisions in their ranks. All of which Trudeau performs like a master. It’s not good for the country, of course, but it helps him stay in power. For him, that’s what matters.
However winning elections is just the beginning: you then have to govern. It is here that Trudeau frequently fails badly.
One of his biggest failures involves the economy. When Trudeau succeeded Stephen Harper in 2015, the country was in good financial shape in spite of the fact that Harper had to increase government spending to reduce the impact of the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. The excesses were being addressed and fiscal sanity was being restored. When Trudeau came to power, fiscal restraint became a thing of the past. New programmes were launched. Existing programmes were expanded. Money flew out the door like autumn leaves blown away by a gust of wind.
The real fun began with the pandemic, which gave Trudeau a golden opportunity to spend as recklessly as he wished without any meaningful oversight or criticism. The result was that in 2020 Canada saw the biggest increase in its deficit among the G7 nations. Its deficit relative to its GDP increased by 19.6 per cent, with its nearest rival, the UK, seeing an increase of ‘only’ 14.6 per cent.
Of course, money isn’t everything and protecting the health of citizens during a pandemic should be a prime concern. This too was an area where Trudeau’s response was less than stellar. For example, early on when personal protective equipment was in short supply, the Canadian government shipped large quantities of these items to China, presumably as a goodwill gesture. As well, the government chose to seek a partnership with a Chinese company to produce an anti-Covid vaccine – a deal which fell through, leaving Canada far behind other countries in finding a supplier of vaccines.
While such mistakes might be forgiven in light of similar incompetence in other countries, Trudeau has a dark side to his personality that accentuates his faults.
One is his blatant narcissism, illustrated by the tour he and his family made to India which saw them dressed like Bollywood stars – an exercise in bad taste which Indian commentators compared to how it would look if their Prime Minister visited the US President in a cowboy outfit.
Coupled with this is his hypocrisy, demonstrated by his attacks on white supremacy while having posed in blackface before entering politics. Or his claiming to be a feminist while at the same time sacking strong, capable female ministers who challenged him on important issues.
More ominous is his authoritarian streak and his obvious dislike for significant parts of the Canadian population. An excellent example is his animus toward those who refuse to be vaccinated. A more mature person would be content with the fact that some 87 per cent of the Canadian population over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated. Not Trudeau. He sees the very existence of such people as a personal affront, and he seems determined to bend them to his will. He has made it virtually impossible for unvaccinated public servants and those working in federally regulated industries (eg airlines and railways) to stay employed. To turn up the heat the Government recently announced that those losing their jobs due to being unvaccinated will likely not be eligible for unemployment benefits. He is now actively insulting the unvaccinated, claiming that many have misogynistic and racist attitudes.
In addition, Trudeau is actively seeking ways to censor the internet and public speech. His government recently passed legislation aimed at banning ‘conversion therapy’ which one constitutional lawyer claims is ‘overbroad and dangerous‘ and ‘interferes severely with the teaching and practice of religious beliefs regarding sexuality and gender identity’.
In short, Trudeau is a seriously flawed leader who comes with an extremely high price tag. And because of the foolishness of millions of Canadians who should know better, we are stuck with him for the foreseeable future. All we can do is live our lives as best we can and wait for better times.
Pray for us.