This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture

September-October 2017

Why Canada’s friends abroad need to get over Justin Trudeau

He's not all that

RM Vaughan@rm_vaughan

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 11.51.45 AM

Illustration by Emile Compion.

Dear Europeans,

Listen, we Canadians are fond of you. And sometimes you Europeans can even find our country on a map. We like the way you keep it post-colonial.

But we have to have a chat about Prime Minister Trudeau. The new one, Justin. Not Disco Trudeau—that was Trudeau 2.0’s dad. I’m talking about Yoga Trudeau, the guy with the tight pants. From Vogue. Yes, him, the underwear model. Gosh, you have not paid us this much attention since we blessed your airwaves with the “Safety Dance.” We’d be lying if we said we’re immune to flattery (Justin sure isn’t).

But, still… Oh, how to begin?

You know how China sends out adorable panda bears as love ambassadors? Justin Trudeau is our panda bear, if panda bears cared about their abs. We send him abroad and you take his picture and you, being well trained in monarchical reasoning, think that if the head of the country is that good looking, it must follow, à la Elizabethan Great Chain of Being, that Canada is also in fine shape. As above, so below.

Your questions about our Prime Beef Minister betray not only your adorably antique cogitating but also your own aspirations. How hard, you wonder, would it be to find a Trudeau for Europe? Not so hard. You have beer commercial casting agents in Europe, no? They sell men’s underwear on the continent, yes?

The thing is, he ain’t all that, politically speaking. I personally would not kick him out of bed for eating (likely gluten-free) crackers, but I might smother him with a pillow if he started talking policy—what little of it he has to brag about.

And since you will keep asking about him, here are the answers you don’t want.

How is our forward-thinking PM protecting Canada’s fragile environment from the ravages of global warming? By negotiating bad trade deals with the EU (that would be you lot, who are still buying coal from Russia) and by reviving cooperation on the Keystone XL pipeline with President Trump, which is a bit like driving a truck full of beer up to the gangway of an off-duty frigate and tossing the captain a bottle opener. It’s going to get messy very, very fast.

To be fair, the prime minister has become a true friend to the poor, the marginalized, and to Canada’s growing underclass. Whenever he meets with the disenfranchised, he wears denim. Denim and novelty socks.

And, yes, Trudeau’s dedication to democratic reform is indeed admirable—if you live in Belarus. To date, he has said the words “democratic” and “reform” out loud, in public, and highlighted each utterance with a look of athletic (by which I mean less-than-mindful) determination. But when you are building a film franchise… erm, rather, a political legacy, you don’t put all the good stuff in the first movie term. Justin Trudeau 2: Back to the Senate is being pre-marketed as a cross between A Few Good Men and one of those French movies with almost no dialogue. Because words, words are so, so empty.

That’s our sexy PM: snug trousers, same old ill-fitting policies. Canadians call this situation the “Canadian Compromise.” It’s how we comfort ourselves when we realize we’ve once again settled for the status quo in better tailoring.

Remember the weird “clear” trend in the 1990s, when everything from Coca Cola to Palmolive dish soap was manufactured without colouring? The marketers thought they could draw in buyers with the promise of literal transparency. Except the Coke still tasted like Coke and, to our wonder, so did the Palmolive. We got the bottles mixed up.

Justin Trudeau is clear cola: He looks as fresh and healthy as river water, and he’s full of crap.

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