I’ll admit it. In 2015 I voted for Justin Trudeau. After almost ten years of Conservative reign, I was excited by Trudeau’s “sunny ways” and his promise to lead Canada out of what some would call a dark time in the country in many ways. I was sick of Stephen Harper’s thuggish political tactics, muzzling scientists, and efforts to lead as much of a dictatorship as possible while in power. A particular soulless rendition I saw of Harper singing Sweet Caroline haunted my dreams.
Enter Justin Trudeau. The son of one of the country’s most loved Prime Ministers, a family man, and former teacher with all the charisma that Harper lacked. And then some. I heard lots of people who agreed with the Conservative smear campaign at the time. “He’s just not ready,” was the famous line that was repeated over and over on the radio and television. He’s too green, they said. An immature pretty boy that didn’t have the chops to lead the country.
I was sure they were wrong. Even if Trudeau was a bit green, surely he had enough smart and experienced people around him to advise him as he led the country into a new era. I was confident that he had enough of his father in him to show people that he was more than just a pretty face. After all, Trudeau senior was considered a heartthrob in his time, while still proving himself to be a strong and competent leader. I was not alive during the FLQ crisis, but even my young(ish) eyes have seen the video footage of Pierre Elliot Trudeau delivering his famous line, “Just watch me”, before invoking the War Measures Act in the 1970s. The same blood was running through JT’s veins. I was sure of it.
Trudeau started off strong. Appointing a diverse cabinet, half of which were women, and putting the inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls into place (which finally released its report earlier this year). Although his government missed the initial deadline of the end of 2015, he eventually delivered on his promise to welcome over 25,000 Syrian refugees to the country as of mid-2016. He also delivered on his promise to legalize cannabis, which created a new market and garnered attention from countries around the world.
Unfortunately, things did not progress as positively as they started. Although he did deliver on some of his electoral commitments, he disappointed many of his supporters when he backtracked on his promise to implement electoral reform before the next election. CBC reported that this item has become a totem for the argument that Trudeau has failed to live up to expectations. It is black and white. He said he would do something, and he didn’t.
Then there was that fateful trip to India, which turned out to be more of a costume party for the Trudeau family than anything else. Trudeau’s people also made the mistake of inviting a Sikh extremist to dinner. How Trudeau’s entourage failed to recognize a known terrorist who, in 1987, was sentenced to 20 years in a Canadian court for his part in the attempted murder of an Indian state minister is beyond me. Arguably not Trudeau’s fault. But it did make him look pretty bad.
The Prime Minister also came under fire when he made some leading comments about the suspension of former Vice-Chief of Defense Staff, Vice Admiral Mark Norman, basically labeling him as guilty before he had even been charged with breach of trust. This furthered the questions about political interference that his government was accused of after making it very difficult for Norman’s lawyer, Marie Henein, to mount her defense. When the charges against Norman were finally stayed, Henein called for an apology ,which he arguably never received.
Trudeau’s most high-profile failure was most likely the mismanagement of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, where he inappropriately influenced Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in an ongoing criminal case against the Quebec engineering firm. This fiasco caused Wilson-Raybould to resign, as well as President of the Treasury Board Jane Philpot, which led Trudeau to expel two of his most prominent female liberal MPs from the party. Trudeau undoubtedly made the decision to try and influence Wilson-Raybould as an effort to save the thousands of jobs SNC-Lavalin creates in Quebec, but should this take precedence over a company being held accountable for illegal actions? That is debatable.
Throughout this election campaign, other party leaders (mostly Andrew Scheer) have been taking shots at Trudeau as a person. Almost an “I told you so…he wasn’t ready.” The leaking of Trudeau’s blackface and brownface appearances in the early 2000s has added to the reputation that the Conservatives are desperately trying to create for him: as a hypocritical pretty boy without the substance to lead the country for another four years.
Listen, I’ve just spent the last 800 words of this editorial pointing out the ways that Trudeau has failed to live up to his supporters’ expectations. My expectations. That being said, I honestly don’t feel like it wasn’t for lack of effort. I don’t believe that Justin Trudeau is evil or corrupt. I do believe that he showed that, unfortunately, the Conservatives were right in 2015…he just wasn’t ready.
Maybe he has learned something over the past four years. Maybe his campaign slogan “choose forward” is right. Were the last four years his trial run? If he is elected again, will he live up to the promises he made four years ago and become a bright light in this country’s political history?
I don’t have that answer. By the time this article comes out, we will have elected our next Prime Minister, who may or may not be Justin Trudeau. Regardless, as a (possibly former) Liberal voter I have a few words for Mr. Trudeau. You can do better.