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Trudeau’s Shakespearean demise: tragedy or comedy?

Left JAB by John Bell

October 18, 2019


For ’tis the sport to have the engineer

Hoist with his own petard. And ’t shall go hard,

But I will delve one yard below their mines,

And blow them at the moon. Oh, ’tis most sweet

(Hamlet, Act 3, scene 4)


Watching Justin Trudeau’s slow but steady demise got me pondering: just what is a petard anyway. Because whatever the hell it is, Trudeau just got hoisted with one. 

It’s a stretch to qualify JT’s fate as tragedy, but in true Shakespearean tradition he is the author of his own demise. We’ve got all the elements: backstabbing, women betraying and betrayed, disguises (repugnant), buffoonish characters for the pit dwellers (including his chief twitter defender, a sock puppet whose claim to fame was hosting a soft porn TV show), and lies lies lies.

The seeds of destruction were planted in victory. In 2015 Trudeau rose like a rocket (c.f. petard) to crush the Harper Tories and the milktoast Mulcair NDP. And he did so in part by promising to reform the electoral system and introduce some type of proportional representation.

Someone actually sat down and counted how many times he promised it: over 1,500 times during that campaign. He had a majority. He had a mandate.

And he didn’t do it. Neither did he present a plausible excuse for not doing it. Now that his party held the power, winner-take-all election didn’t seem like such a bad idea. So Trudeau rolled the dice, betting that the electorate would a) forget about it or b) get over it. In reality, although it never became a front burner issue in this campaign, it fundamentally damaged Trudeau’s “branding” before the election even began.

Gone was the hope that even if what Trudeau was offering was far short of rebellion, he would at least rattle a few chains. The optimistic youth vote that had lifted him wasn’t about to be fooled twice.

Oh say can you SNC

Back in 2015, it took a Falstaffian villain to remind Bay Street not to fret, that the Liberals were their friends. I speak, of course, of Lord of Crossharbour, Conrad Black who wrote: “Trudeau seems to be regaining enough of the old Liberal dexterity of being just far enough to the left of the Conservatives as not to seem like tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum to voters of the centre-left, and adequately to the right of the NDP not to frighten the cautious Canadian bourgeoisie.”

The old felon overestimated Trudeau’s “dexterity”. Just months before the election came the SNC Lavalin scandal and the resignations of Judy Wilson-Rayboult and Jane Philpott. Much of Trudeau’s carefully molded image as a “feminist” was blown up (c.f. petard) in an instant.

And even for those not subscribing to JWR’s tale of noble victimhood – I always figured her as a second-rate Machiavelli and barely competent cabinet member, but that’s another story – there was no escaping the bad optics of Trudeau colluding with one of the worst gangs of white collar criminals on earth. 

JT tried mightily to cast himself as the dutiful defender of jobs, jobs, jobs. But he came off, rightly, as just another corporate bagman. And another layer of his halo was in the dust.

Laying pipes, lying pipes

And then he went and bought a pipeline.

The champion of climate change action tried to convince us that the way to end dependancy on fossil fuels was to burn as many of them as possible.

The canoe-paddler who spoke so eloquently about reconciliation with Indigenous people swept aside the concept of fully informed prior consent, and said the “nation building” petro-project trumped human rights.

They tried to lay it on Stephen Harper, who signed some stanky contract with China. To which most people said, grow a pair, rip up the secret deal and we’ll back you up.

The environmentalist vote was jumping to the NDP and Greens. Last time David Suzuki endorsed him; this time Suzuki says: “Justin Trudeau is a liar. For me that's the charge. He’s an out-and-out liar.” 

And all of that took place in the months before the election campaign.

Campaign follies

For some reason Liberals thought that all the broken promises would be forgiven and the scandalous shit they had stepped in wouldn’t stick to their shoes. Trudeau would win us all over with his chipper smile and nice rhetoric. We’re the Liberals. We’re Canada’s natural ruling party. You know you’ll end up settling for us.

After all who was JT up against? A split Tory party led by a creep who made Stephen Harper look mellow; a brown guy in a turban; a woman leading a motley crew that didn’t know left from right; and a neo-Nazi wannabe. It should have been a walk in the park. 

Then came the brownface photos. Then came the blackface photos. Then came the resurgence of the Bloc, puffing on the dog whistle and riding the disturbing but undeniable popularity of Bill 21 in Quebec. Then came the fact that the brown guy with the turban distinguished himself as the only honest, relatable human being in the pack.

To top it all off, Trudeau announced that his government would appeal the findings of a Human Rights Tribunal that found the government guilty of “willful and reckless” discrimination against Indigenous children. Generations of kids had been put at risk through underfunding essential services, and up $40 thousand in compensation was due to them and their families. 

Nope, said Trudeau. Oh there was technical double-talk, but it boiled down to this. There’s money for pipelines, corporate welfare, tax haven loopholes, war ships and the like, but no dough for Indigenous kids.

Trudeau the tragic prince stands alone, an empty, shallow man. Even his achievements – record job creation, that in reality is a huge rise in minimum wage positions – are hollow. He talks and talks about his climate change plan, or about reconciliation, but it is just a word salad making less and less sense. He utters the word “progressive” until it is devoid of meaning. His candid, boyish style has devolved into a weird, William Shatner-like delivery. He doesn’t even look like he believes himself.

All he and his supporters have left, screamed shrilly through the campaign’s dying days, is: “Hey, the Tories are worse.” “Don’t vote like you really want, for the guy with the turban, or the Ghost of Tory Past will get you.”

Last time we had grand promises to make every vote matter. This time we were being extorted into terror voting for the lesser evil. 

And so the stage lights go down on Trudeau. Whether he a) scrapes together enough coalition support to form a government, b) squeaks through with the narrowest of majorities, or c) loses outright to the most pathetic Tory campaign in living memory, Trudeau is damaged goods. At every step he acted like we were required to forgive him, overlook his hypocrisy, and simply admire his privileged princely smile.

Light the fuse on that petard, time to blow him up most sweet. 

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