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Justin Trudeau, Trump-lite

John Bell

January 25, 2017

It was just a year ago that newly-minted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to the stage at Davos, Switzerland, to declare himself a feminist. He was the toast of the town, and by town I mean tiny, elitist, winter holiday enclave.

Trudeau and the 1%

The World Economic Forum at Davos is the annual cocktail party-cum-handwringing session, where the 1 % and their retainers get together to tut-tut over the world’s ills on the public stage and do deals in the back rooms. It is the best, current exhibition of “noblesse oblige” going.

According to Wikipedia: “’Noblesse oblige’ is generally used to imply that with wealth, power, and prestige come responsibilities… to refer to public responsibilities of the rich, famous and powerful, notably to provide good examples of behaviour or to exceed minimal standards of decency.’”

Davos is sort of like Batman, hanging by his heels at night, brooding about how to use his fabulous wealth and power to keep the Bane of revolution out of Gotham. The Batman comparison is particularly apt for Trudeau – photogenic, happy-go-lucky patrician by day; grim corporate vigilante by night.

Well, this year Justin Trudeau turned down his trip to Davos. And it is good thing. On the agenda is the very continued existence of “globalization” in the face of such upsets as the Brexit vote and the election of Trump. China’s Xi Jinping modestly offered his services as new champion of globe-trotting capitalism. Will Canada try to salvage the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal now that our new neighbor has withdrawn? Stay tuned.

What could have kept Justin Trudeau from witnessing the baton being passed? It wasn’t because he had a full schedule of cash-for-access fundraisers lined up. Those were so 2016. It wasn’t because he wanted to attend Trump’s inauguration. That would have been the last nail in the coffin for his progressive veneer. It sure wasn’t because the self-appointed feminist planned to attend any one of the great Women’s Marches that protested Trump and his policies, although he did send a nice, after-the-fact tweet when he saw how successful they were. Thanks for not explaining why you and your Status of Women Minister both missed it, Justin.

Instead, Trudeau decided to come down from his Hill and walk among the little people (see “noblesse oblige”, above). Kate Purchase, his unfortunately named spokesperson explained: “The prime minister wants to hear from them how they are feeling at the start of 2017, what their concerns and anxieties are and what we can do to help alleviate that.”  

So, how are we feeling? We’re pissed. And we’re growing mighty tired of this condescending dynast.

Trudeau meets the 99%

In Halifax, he tried to identify with new immigrants with this gibberish: “I’m a 10th- or 11th-generation Canadian on one of my sides but my maternal grandfather was born in Scotland so I do have some idea of the challenges it takes to come to Canada and has took over the sweep of history of Canada.” What Syrian refugee couldn’t identify with that?

Then the selfie-loving plutocrat posed with two young women for a photo, only to be asked by student Kathleen Olds if he plans to stand behind the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which he signed with great fanfare and which states that government requires consent before approving resource extraction projects on First Nations lands. His reaction, caught on video, was reminiscent of a scalded cat.

Olds told the media: “I wanted to see whether he would be honest and accountable to his campaign promises or try to deflect, again. I guess now we know!”

In Peterborough, a single mother with disabilities accused Trudeau of failing her. She told a town hall meeting that high hydro rates were breaking her, and now a federal carbon tax would make things worse. The best Trudeau could muster was: “We haven’t brought in any carbon tax yet ma’am. It doesn’t start kicking in for another few years.”

(What did you expect him to say: that while the Canadian state subsidizes the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $3.3 billion per year, imposing a carbon tax is criminal? Or that his provincial cousins have to gouge us on hydro to bail out the nuclear industry?)

It was in Calgary that Trudeau made his biggest gaffe. Pressed on the dismal gap between his environmental rhetoric and pipeline approving performance, he spoke about “phasing out” the tar sands. Shock and horror abounded, not least from the Quisling NDP government of Rachel Notley.

Luckily he got to clarify things back in Calgary, where his cabinet was meeting at a retreat in the wake of Davos, Trump’s endorsement of pipelines, and Trudeau’s less than stellar tour. He claims to have “misspoke.” “I have repeatedly said that yes, the responsibility of any Canadian prime minister is to get our resources to market and yes, that includes our oilsands fossil fuels,” he said. “I’ve also said that we need to do that in a responsible, sustainable way — that you cannot separate what’s good for the environment and what’s good for the economy.”

Trudeau’s tour tried to present him as all things to all people: the colonialist who understands the pain of First Nations people and new immigrants; the champion of tar sands and pipelines who just wants to make a better world out of petro-profits. As one Alberta onlooker told him: “You are either a liar or you’re confused. I’m beginning to think it’s both.”

Sadly that accurate assessment came from a man wearing a Donald Trump hat and an “I love oil sands” T-shirt. There, in a nutshell lies the secret to Trump’s success, and the failure of the small-L liberal left.

Justin Trudeau has made a spectacle of himself in the brief time Trump has been in office, sucking up in order to curry favour. Harper-lite has become Trump-lite. His ill-fated tour shows Trudeau can indeed learn from Donald Trump. When venturing out in public it is always best to bring your own well-rehearsed audience, complete with “applause” signs.

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