Justin Trudeau: Working Hard Or Hardly Working? Only Barack Knows For Sure
There was a telling moment last spring when Barack Obama’s farewell tour brought him to the Canadian Parliament. Obama was there to bask in the rapture of Canadians who, stuck with the bland Stephen Harper the past decade, were thirsting for a little something-something in their coffee.
Unsurprisingly, Obama received a fawning welcome from the left side of the political spectrum assembled that day in Ottawa. The first black American president is as much a talisman of the Canadian left as he is for the progressives in America who believe, as Obama does, that “the arc of moral history always bends toward justice.”
Just being able to include themselves in the ranks of Obama supplicants is an honour for Canada’s devoted left, many of whom are products of the draft-dodger diaspora of the Viet Nam era. No wonder they chanted, “Four more years, four more years!” at him.
If possible, the slavish devotion of Canada’s pom-pom crew in the Liberals, NDP and Green party was matched by the Obama love pitched by the Hill’s press corps. Jelly kneed journos quivered in rhapsodic joy as Obama turned his teleprompter upon them. You could almost hear their busy fingers frantically transcribing the pontificator in chief.
“The world needs more Canada,” POTUS 44 read from his autocue. Obama lovers swooned anew at the notion that Barack The Conqueror was extolling their place in the world. “Us, he talked about us,” they giggled as if Justin Bieber had sung them Happy Birthday. "It tempts me to shut up and leave. It can't get any better than this," he boasted as MPs swarmed him.
Of course, they’d gotten Barack’s meaning bass-akwards. What Obama was really saying was not some focus-grouped Liberal tripe about our moral superiority, our superior intellect. No, Obama was telling the Canadian politicians that they needed to pony up internationally for his grand schemes on defence, climate and racial stuff.
He was calling Canada a laggard, a deadbeat, a passenger when it came to NATO. But the statesmen of the left were unfazed. Obama likely knew that few Canadians would look past the slick images of himself, the heavyweight champion of the faculty lounge, to hear what he was actually saying. How else could he lie about keeping doctors under Obamacare or not paying ransoms to Iran and survive unscathed?
The president has made reassuring his Green hipster base his operating principle. But we shouldn’t be surprised at the gullibility of the residents of Belmont, as sociologist Charles Murray described North America’s ruling class in his masterful 2011 book Coming Apart. (Fishtown is the working class in Murray’s construct.)
Marrying each other, hiring each other, talking only with each other, they live contented lives in behind the walls of their gated intellects. While seeming to speak with great knowledge and empathy about Fishtown’s people and problems during election campaigns, when they do meet a Rob Ford they recoil in disgust behind the ad hominem artillery of racism, sexism and Islamophobia.
Of all the culture bubbles there is likely none quite so self reverential, so self-satisfied as Canada’s elites. You saw it at The Tragically Hip farewell as a terminal ill Gord Downie rambled about the tragedy of the Cree and how Justin Trudeau was going to end it all. “We're in good hands, folks, real good hands," Downie told the live audience taht (shazam!) included Trudeau. "He cares about the people way up North, that we were trained our entire lives to ignore, trained our entire lives to hear not a word of what's going on up there.”
Downie neglected to mention that Justin’s papa Pierre was (along with Jean Chretien) the architect of the 1969 White Paper on modern Indian policy— whose shortcomings the singer was now lamenting. By setting natives free from the old order, Trudeau Sr. cast them into a new hell of unstructured tumult.
But again, facts were just noise next to the emotion for Trudeau the Younger, who pushed his way backstage to to be photographed hugging Downie.
The genius of whomever is responsible for Justin Trudeau is in understanding, as Obama did, that looking like you’re working is far more effective in a social media age than actually working. By hijacking many of the public duties we used to delegate to the governor general—such as Downie’s concert, an Olympic medalist, a visit to a science centre, a grieving parent— Trudeau’s handlers have replicated Obama’s trick of doing nothing tastefully.
As they did with Obama, events will eventually smoke out Trudeau from his whirlwind cover shoot for Nobel Prize Monthly. He may surprise us— Harry Truman did just that as FDR’s successor. Or he may descend into partisanship and blaming the opposition when his plans for social justice hit head winds. If he does fracture as Obama has done, he’ll still likely have the sympathy of media that nursed his Daddy through 12 years of economic disaster and misbegotten social reforms such as the Indian White Paper.
Because in the true north strong and free-for-all, it’s better to look good that to feel good. Just ask Barack.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy
Bruce's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).