Thursday, August 14, 2014

Justin Trudeau Speaks

But, unfortunately, says nothing.

As I have noted elsewhere in this blog and in comments on others', I have grave misgivings about the Liberal Party under the leadership of Justin Trudeau. Despite the latest EKOS poll showing the party with a commanding lead while the Conservatives continue to sink under the heavy hand of Herr Harper, I cannot escape the notion that Trudeau is superficial, intellectually flaccid, and a political opportunist (the latter quality, of course, putting him in good company with so many others who hold elected office).

Earlier in the week I wrote a post entitled Thomas Mulcair Speaks which revolved around the fact that the NDP leader, likely due to political pressure from within his own party, moved beyond his usual platitudes in discussing the Israeli assault on Gaza that has killed about 2000 innocent Palestinians. In his strongest words yet, he called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Gaza.

Unfortunately, Trudeau has not been moved to make a similar gesture.

In today's Star, Haroon Siddiqui writes the following:

Liberal supporters wondered why Justin Trudeau issued a statement July 15 laying all the blame on Hamas but not calling on Israel to show any restraint. They were further outraged by a solidarity trip to Israel by two Toronto-area Liberal MPs, John McCallum and Carolyn Bennett — paid for by the pro-Israeli lobby group, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Trudeau's response was to give an address Monday in Mississauga that began rather inauspiciously:

About 100 protesters waited for him at the Derry Rd. locale, carrying placards and shouting slogans for more than an hour — “Killing children is wrong,” “End the occupation,” “Occupation is a crime,” etc.

No longer quite the accessible and forthright politician he has been promoted as, Trudeau dodged them to enter the hall where he read a prepared speech.

The speech itself had little substance, his boldest declaration being, “There is no military solution to the crisis that continues to plague the Middle East . . . A safe and secure Israel can only exist when it exists next to a safe and secure Palestinian state.”

According to Siddiqui, the rest was a homily on Canadian diversity. No questions were taken from the floor.

After reading the column, I couldn't help but think of the boxing match in which Trudeau bested Patrick Brazeau. Doubtless there was much bobbing and weaving involved. Perhaps the leader of the Liberal Party has not yet learned that in the political arena, such a strategy will only take you so far.


  1. Justin Trudeau is no Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Too amateurish. It is his name which is helping him but I don't know how long he can go on that ride. He has to show some guts and so far he has been a great disappointment.

  2. Agreed, LD. While Trudeau claims to be a new kind of leader, his actions and words thus far belie that boast.

  3. Not that I am wanting to be defending this, as I've already said here I disagree profoundly with this choice of his on this issue, but how much of this is because he knows he cannot afford to give the Harper machine any chance to portray him especially on foreign policy grounds as unserious. Remember the comment I made that you chose to post on your blog? Those forces are no doubt watching Trudeau like a Hawk hoping for just the slightest chance to tear at him so as to let them keep their preferred man Harper in the PMO. So it is possible what we are seeing is as you said bobbing and weaving like in that boxing match, but remember, that serves a real purpose, to stay in the fight until you can deliver your hard punches to win.

    I'm not saying I'm happy with this, because I am not. I am though also not going to pretend that as ugly and horrific as things are with Israel and the Palestinians that I am going to make my political domestic judgments in the current reality on them either. I do not know that my view is correct, that Trudeau is saying what he needs to to be able to stay in the fight to beat Harper, and if he is it is something I never like seeing political leaders do, but I won't pretend that there isn't real reason for a leader with Trudeaus limited record to do it on an issue as charged and with as powerful a lobby on one side as we have here.

    Even if I am wrong though and he truly believes what he is saying, I am still not going to change my view that letting him become the next PM is still the best choice among the three actually viable options, because while Mulcair may have more experience as a leader the way he operates is not a whole lot better than Harper in my eyes, granted for less destructive purposes. I don't trust those in his team for competence to run a government, I do trust in the institutional experience within the Liberal party though, and that is why I can still support a Lib leader who comes in with as limited experience as Trudeau, especially since he clearly knows how to find quality competent people around him and makes them get the job done. Look at how much he has been able to rebuild the Lib party itself for proof of that.

    He is clearly not his father in intellect, but then how many of us are? Is he as developed as I would prefer, no but then I think he himself would say that. He didn't after all, initially want to run for leader this soon, he wanted to build up more experience, the problem was the 2011 results left him with a stark choice, either run now or there quite possibly wouldn't be a Lib party for him to lead when he did have that experience. So I understand your concerns Lorne, and even to a degree share them, but I also keep the context we have in mind too, and I do not believe that Trudeau is so able a leader to run and win his leadership with a 80% first ballot win, then rebuild his party machinery from the ground up, fundraising machinery overhauled as it has been, and not understand that he needs to put out more serious substance, I'm hoping he is biding his time. Too soon as we know what the Harper CPC will do, we've seen that movie already after all. Just ask Dion.

    If we were in typical times I could not support a first time leader such as Trudeau, but these are anything but, and I refuse to allow myself to be diverted from the most important short term goal, the removal of Harper and the CPC, and hopefully with enough force to send them to third party status hopefully allowing the Red Tories to take over the CPC and turn it into something sane.

  4. I went to see JT in London last year and before the Party nomination precisely because I didn't believe the hype. I was impressed with his poise and knowledge and ultimately decided that he is the real deal. I too, however, feel vaguely disappointed with his public position re: Zion and Gaza.

    I fairness though, he is still only a PM in waiting. He is young and inexperienced and has already suffered several beatings at the hands of the CPC bullys precisely for taking firm positions (pro-choice, pot). Since he still has to *win* popular support (and the next election), I think it is reasonable for him to be somewhat more coy about extremely divisive issues.

    His head and heart are in the right place. He is a proud Canadian and a champion of this great country and its liberal values. This is the diametric opposite of Harper's Alberta-centric, corporate oil pandering, science-denying, climate-change ignoring, anti-woman, opaque, unaccountable, controversial subterfuge.

    I want this young man to lead this country. He'll find his feet.

    Cheers, Simon

  5. Thanks to both Scotian and Simon for your well-considered comments. I hope you won't mind if I publish both in a separate blog entry, as they provide incisive counter-balances to the views I expressed above.

    While I do believe that you are quite right about the dangers being forthright would pose at the hands of the Harper henchmen, I do think there are ways to be fair to both the Gazans and Israelis without alienating the supporters of either side. I wish Trudeau would opt for one of those ways.

    Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  6. Lorne:

    I've got no problems with it, if I did why would I write comments in the first place? LOL

    Seriously, it is not like I disagree with you on the preference, but I am also mindful of the fact that Trudeau has only one chance to win here, the moment he makes those "in over his head" ads look credible on any serious issue, however fairly or unfairly, is the moment his and the Lib chances take a serious hit and all that CPC voter support he and the Libs have been pulling away risks returning to Harper. It is not likely they will go to Mulcair and the NDP, they didn't for Layton in 2011 after all. Remember, it is not just he Harper henchmen I fear on this issue, indeed in some ways they would be the pick-up follow-through to the ones I truly fear, who would also give a dangerous credibility to that attack from the Harperites. It is not in the interests of the pro-Israel-at-all-costs lobby to lose Harper, who clearly is the most committed to their POV of all our leaders, and it is they I fear would do the initial damage which then the Harperites could and would exploit.

    I think that the political team around Trudeau can see that at least as easily as I can, so I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt despite my clear distaste for what is said and for the fact that if I am right we have a leader saying one thing while believing another, something I never like seeing in politics from anyone. That said though, we cannot really make any difference in Gaza, especially with Harper as PM, but we CAN make a difference in who is our PM, so that is where I believe our focus must stay, even when we see such ugliness as we have seen over the past several weeks, both in the ME and in our domestic discourse about it.

    The hard and ugly truth is Trudeau because of his inexperience as a leader cannot afford to take risks like the one you wished he would, not yet. Once he gains the gravitas as a PM he can, and I would hope will, but for now he needs to keep the foreign policy arena as neutral a space as possible in terms of the difference between him and Harper so as to prevent it being used to undercut his and the Lib chances, and especially so on this issue given the outside/third party lobby interest already referred to.

    Believe me Lorne, it turns my stomach to be writing/saying such things, but the last 8 years has been doing that too, and worse. Before anything else can be changed we MUST be rid of Harper and his CPC, and hopefully forcefully enough that his faction loses their grip on the party and the old time Red Tories can take it over and return it to something that actually cares about traditional Canadian values, indeed typical Canadian Conservative values at that.

  7. I too was very upset about Trudeau's one sided support of Israel. I think this is done more for political reasons then for genuine reasons. That may be worse though. He needs to trust in Canadians judging him honestly for his views. We do not aquire our opinion of him based on Harpers attacks. I know he would be smeared by the CONS if he advocated that Israel stop their occupation of Palestine but I for one would stand by him and so would most Canadians. I hope at some point he rectifies this. Siddiqui was right when he said Liberal supporters were outraged. That's exactly how I felt. I think this has been the first serious issue where he chose politics over truth. Again, I hope in time he rectifies this. Having said that I will be voting for him in 2015. He has attracted some really impressive people to the party and the liberals once again have substance. I also think it took guts for him to remove senators from the Liberal party umbrella. He has not turned out to be the intellectual and character light weight I had originally thought him to be. Once I decided to follow what he was doing and listen to what he says, for the most part I had to revise my opinion of him. I agree with Simon that Trudeau is a "proud Canadian and a champion of this great country and it's liberal values" and that counts alot to me. I do not sense ,like Harper. that Trudeau is pursuing political power for powers sake.He does not have the intellectual gravitas of his father, but he doesn't have to have it to be a good PM. Essentially he just has to be a good man. The difference in character between Harper and Trudeau is night and day. Trudeau is still an idealist not yet and hopefully never destroyed by cynicism. Harper is a wanna be dictator who is all about power and everthing that goes with that i.e. feelings of profound insecurity, the use of faith and dogma over reason, the exercise of bullying when disagreed with, the need to operate in secrecy in an open and free country, the need to be obeyed and on and on. The 2015 election will be a testing stone for Canadian voters. It will reveal if we really believe in the values off freedom, fairness, and intelligence. Values that created this country. More importantly it will reveal if we really do care. Thx for a great article.

  8. Thank you for your well-considered comments, Pamela. I was particularly struck by this:

    "Essentially he just has to be a good man. The difference in character between Harper and Trudeau is night and day. "

    I agree that most Canadians, if they are honest with themselves, long to have a leader who is a good person, who embraces what I like to think of as our traditional values of compassion, inclusiveness and generosity. I sincerely hope, if his party wins the next election, Trudeau will be that kind of leader.