Canada’s federal election campaign is quickly turning into a nightmare for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
If Trudeau loses the October 21 federal election—and increasingly, the odds are that he will—it will be owing to a complete loss of credibility as a national leader. The first two weeks of his re-election campaign have demonstrated that Trudeau cannot comprehend the distinction between fantasy and reality—not entirely out of character for a former drama teacher. Having spent his entire term as prime minister focused on style over substance, and political gestures over effective policy change, Trudeau’s time may very well be up.
Like the emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s short story, the Prime Minister has no clothes.
BROWNFACE AND PINKWASHING: PEDDLING IDENTITY POLITICS FOR VOTES
September has been quite the month of Mondays for Trudeau. Exactly one week after he made his re-election announcement, on September 11, Trudeau was confronted with the worst public relations disaster of his career. TIME Magazine published a story with a picture of Trudeau in brownface from his tenure as a drama teacher at West Point Grey Academy in Vancouver, BC. The shock resonated through the national press corps—Trudeau, the paragon of diversity and inclusion, making himself up to look like the crudest stereotype of Aladdin? Apparently so.
The blatant offensiveness of these actions, and his cavalier disregard for their implications, is just another instance of how his incredible lack of judgement reveals a hypocritical, deceitful political platform.
Trudeau arranged an impromptu news conference to address the fiasco on his campaign plane as it idled on the tarmac in Halifax. He appeared quite shaken, but not stirred by the evidence; he kept repeating talking points about how he “shouldn’t have done that but I did.” He even went as far as to say he was “pissed-off” with himself. He admitted to another incident that occurred during a high school talent contest when he sang “Day-O” and wore makeup. He didn’t go as far as to call his talent “blackface,” but that’s what CBC News soon uncovered it as.
That veneer of credibility that somehow clung to Trudeau during the last election—despite the best attempts by opposition to depict him as an intellectual lightweight and diversity sophist—began to wear thin during a notorious trip to India in 2018. There the Prime Minister and his family posed for daily glamor shots, fully dressed in traditional Indian garb in front of famous sights like the Taj Mahal. Canadians sneered at the transparent attempt at cultural appropriation.
Now, it’s not that any political observer or conservative politician seriously believes that Trudeau’s cultural faux pas are enough to suggest he’d be comfortable in a white hood, terrorizing people of color. But the blatant offensiveness of these actions, and his cavalier disregard for their implications, is just another instance of how his incredible lack of judgement reveals a hypocritical, deceitful political platform.
Trudeau has beaten the drum of identity politics so fervently during the last four years that middle class voters remain bewildered as to what political universe he lives in. One the one hand, Trudeau has rarely missed a Pride parade from Vancouver to Halifax—even going as far as to issue an LGBT dollar coin this summer. His government has expanded hate crimes legislation to include transgendered individuals, and he has indicted a strong desire to create a two-tiered justice system that panders to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Canadians, whom he believes will remain hopelessly disenfranchised without being endowed with a special legal status.
But Trudeau campaigned on saving Canada’s middle class when he ran in 2015; it is probably the one constant in his significant speeches over the past four years. He is always careful to articulate his supposed commitment to the middle class when President Donald Trump is not far away—even suggesting at times that both he and the American leader share this passion. Unlike President Trump, however, Trudeau’s political legacy demonstrates an inability to comprehend Canada’s middle class—he’s blind to their economic circumstances.
Take his tortured attempt to explain that the Trudeau family had switched to drink boxes to reduce the use of household plastics. These kinds of superficial pandering to left-leaning politics reveal a complete disconnect from what the middle class wants and needs—and what Trudeau thinks will win him political support.
FAILURE TO LAUNCH: THE RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN TAKES OFF POORLY
Unlike his American counterpart, Justin Trudeau made the announcement for re-election with a lot of unknown people standing behind him. Most of them looked like kids—not a Member of Parliament in sight—just a blank crowd, staring ahead, occasionally offering an awkward smile. This was in stark contrast to the troves of acolytes who had flocked to Justin four years ago when he sailed to his coronation. But it was another emblematic moment for the battle-worn prime minister, who has had to work assiduously to detract attention from his fundamental incompetence.
Superficial pandering to left-leaning politics reveal a complete disconnect from what the middle class wants and needs—and what Trudeau thinks will win him political support.
Trudeau’s announcement could not have come at a worse time—he was broadsided the night before by the Globe & Mail. Once considered the Conservative’s national paper, the increasingly liberal press produced a revelation September 10th night that the Liberal government has stymied efforts by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to begin a preliminary investigation into the SNC-Lavalin scandal. This revelation seemed to nail the coffin for Trudeau regarding the judicial interference charges levied by the Parliament Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion. Evidently, Trudeau had improperly influenced the then Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in an ongoing criminal case against Quebec-based construction company SNC-Lavalin.
It turns out that the police have been told—by the clerk of the Privy Council—that they are barred from speaking to Trudeau’s ministers because of the venerable rule of cabinet confidentiality. Trudeau endorsed the call, but quickly proceeded to hide behind the clerk on the 11th, suggesting the advice was both sound and practical, and his government had accepted it. The RCMP is reportedly turning its attention to Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former AG that Trudeau ejected from the Liberal caucus.
The re-election campaign, which began poorly enough, continues to suffer from one punishing news cycle after another—and the dramatists love of public appearance, performance, and presence will cost him dearly.
TRUDEAU’S VISIBILITY MAY COST HIM THE ELECTION
The speech to launch Trudeau’s re-election campaign was launched with such lackluster delivery that he appeared to be reading a dinner menu. He seemed to be caught in a curious political time warp as warned his audience about returning “to the politics of the Harper era” that Trudeau dismisses as a time of fear and austerity.
But this time, Trudeau is not running against former Prime Minister Stephen Harper; his main opponent is the current Conservative Party leader, Andrew Scheer. Scheer, a former speaker of the House of Commons, has incrementally moved to political centrism since become the Official Opposition leader. It’s not that Trudeau is afraid to utter his name; it just appears that he can’t remember his name, which surveys suggest is true for many Canadians.
Scheer can take solace in the fact that Canadians do know Trudeau’s name, and besides successfully negotiating a new North American Free Trade Agreement with Trump (although not yet with his Congress), and legalizing marijuana for the masses, the prime minister has few legislative achievements—and a long list of embarrassments.