Amid Economic Chaos, Trudeau’s Star Nearly Dark
He was Canada's golden boy, but between the pipeline protests and a series of fumbles, he barely eked out re-election.
The past week may have been difficult for the Trudeau family which is self-quarantining after the Prime Minister’s wife Sophie was diagnosed with the coronavirus (Justin was not). But this follows several stark months for Trudeau and his Liberal Party overall. His reelection campaign was hardly the coronation that the Liberals had been expecting—winning, in the end, not because of the prime minister, but in spite of him.
It wasn’t always like this. In 2015, when Trudeau was first elected into office, Canada was practically hysterical with “Trudeaumania.” After ten years of stolid Conservative leadership, his election came as a progressive revolution for the country. Through his stardust, Trudeau had reinvigorated the country and its people—instantly assuming leadership in the global revolt against populism.
The Canadian electorate are not the only demographic who have been disarmed by Trudeau’s charm. So too have the international commentariat, who wrote breathlessly buttery profiles about the progressive prince. Take, for instance, this article by the then-lucid New York Times, who described “Justin” as “the unquestioned star.” Or The Atlantic which, even in 2019, described his administration as “the most successful progressive government in the world.” And on. And on. And on.
This is partly why Trudeau’s seemingly eternal post-election honeymoon lasted so long. There is no more desirable a quality in Canada than to be admired by the American press. Trudeau is a politician of style rather than substance: his handsomeness and unqualified promises of a sunny future made him the perfect candidate for the media to idealize—yet when it actually came to the matter of governance, the Canadian public soon became weary.
The very same qualities that made Trudeau so attractive in the 2015 election became traits that would harm him in the 2019 election. His boyish optimism became indicative of a naive immaturity; his eagerness to alter Canada’s image was now viewed as a reckless entitlement, made clear through an inability to avoid needless scandals.
The most famous of these is, of course, his blackface photos—a revelation that caused even the most cynical of his critics to raise an eyebrow. This scandal, however, hardly stands alone. His bullying of Canada’s first native attorney general; his numerous ethics violations; his colossally embarrassing trip to India—are all symptoms of a leader who was ushered into power for his electability rather than his leadership qualities.
Perhaps all this could be forgiven if it were not for the events of the last few weeks. Canada has effectively been paralyzed by a brood of yuppies and indigenous groups, protesting the construction of a pipeline. Not only did these protestors delay its construction, but they also blockaded ports, highways, and most crucially, the railway between the nation’s capital and its two largest cities.
It is difficult, even for this Canadian political journalist, to describe how significant an artery this railway is to the Canadian economy. I suppose it would be like protestors clogging I-95 along the East Coast from Maine to Florida. Either way, it does not take much of an imagination to consider how President Trump would have reacted to this. Trudeau, on the other hand, stood firmly still, hoping that all this would be resolved naturally.
This, combined with the recent crash in oil prices, has all but forced Canada into a recession.
Where America seems somewhat poised to weather this storm, Canada does not. Time and time again, Trudeau has told us that Canada can balance both economic growth and environmental responsibility. Now, as the global economy shrivels, the public is beginning to wonder why the prime minister was so casual with the country’s ever-growing deficits.
Trudeau has been relentlessly punished in the polls for all this. During the aforementioned pipeline protests, 75 percent of Canadian’s expressed subtle “displeasure” with his government’s handling of the crisis. Another poll conducted by Canada’s leading think tank displayed a blunter 64 percent disapproval rating of the prime minister. If a general election were to be held tomorrow, it seems unlikely that Trudeau would occupy the Prime Minister’s Office for much longer.
There was another poll that was perhaps more revealing: 69 percent of Canadians now believe that country is “broken.” With unprecedented separatist movements emerging from both Alberta and Québec, stagnating economic growth, and mass civil disobedience it has become rather difficult to suggest otherwise. What is up for debate, however, is the extent to which Trudeau is to blame for creating these fractures.
Canada has always been an awkward country. The British created it with the same spectacular colonial ignorance that many of its other colonial relatives also suffered from—leading to a country with vast geographic, ideological, and linguistic differences. These historic facts have forced deliberative and mature leadership among Trudeau’s predecessors for the sake of national unity. He, on the other hand, has decided to play province against province, the environmentalist against the oil worker, and to idly watch as the country is tormented by illegal protests. The flood of optimism that followed Trudeau’s first election is now long gone. The worst is yet to come.
Nico Johnson is a political correspondent at The Post Millennial. Originally from the U.K., Nico now lives and works in Montreal, Quebec.