Justin Trudeau is such an easy target, so easy to reflexively dismiss, that the wait-and-see attitude taken by much of the media towards his candidacy for the Liberal leadership is only prudent. However, we have now seen him, on the night when he had his best shot at presenting an image of himself that doesn’t scream “lightweight,” and he didn’t do much to exceed expectations.
In fact, I don’t see how the speech could have been more vacuous.
Hard work. Good jobs. Better country. And so on. And a strange sort of solipsism throughout, based on Trudeau’s apparent notion that he and the nation have been joined at the hip since birth — his. As opposed to the reality that nobody much thought of him until he delivered a much better speech (or rather, eulogy) at his father’s funeral in 2000, which was when talk of his political future began. But all grand plans conceived in moments of high emotion merit reexamination somewhere down the line, when the emotion has faded and commonsense has had a chance to seep back in. Including, I am pretty certain now, this one.
His speech last night reminded me of the slogan used in the Liberals’ 1972 campaign, “The Land is Strong.” That too was meaningless and without resonance, and just about lost the election for them. And, of course, “The Land” wasn’t strong — with the Parti Quebecois finding its feet and, not far behind them, western Canadian nationalists, The Land was about to enter one of the most tumultuous periods in its history.
Similarly, Trudeau fils was simply wrong and tone-deaf much of the time last night. “This magnificent, unlikely country was founded on a bold new premise. That people of different beliefs and backgrounds, from all corners of the world, could come together to build a better life for themselves and for their children than they ever could have alone.” What alternate history is this? The country was founded by two European cultures making life miserable for the people who already lived here. Unless, of course, he’s thinking of the multiculturalism his father successfully introduced in the ’70s and ’80s. But, again, that’s not the history of the country, Justin — that’s just the history of the country since you were born.
“The Liberal Party did not create Canada. Canada created the Liberal Party . . . . The Liberal Party was their vehicle of choice.” Well, no. It may once have been Ontario and Quebec’s vehicle of choice, but much of the rest of the country has spent much of the last four or five decades trying to get rid of the Liberal Party, and pretty effectively at that, you may have noticed. That is why it is in the deracinated state where Justin Trudeau’s candidacy is taken seriously.
If Trudeau manages to attract a lot of young people to the political process, that will be a good thing. And he was pretty smart to fly straight to Calgary after his speech and address his toughest audience up front (though he should have been a lot more explicit in disavowing his father’s energy policies; Calgarians don’t go in for the coded language thing). But mostly his candidacy looks set to divide the left and make it easier for the Conservatives to win a third straight term, regardless of what any poll is saying right now. His supporters would like us to see him as the Second Coming, but I expect his legacy will be to finally wipe Canada clean of the values his father championed. It’s an irony Pierre Trudeau might have laughed at — and one that, apparently, Justin has yet to grasp.