Why liberals were always wrong to idolise Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau

The Canadian leader is a vapid sloganeer.

For many who watched Canada’s 2015 general election from abroad, the victory of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals was cause for euphoric celebration. Having ended nearly a decade of Conservative rule, Trudeau arrived on the international scene as a progressive saviour and a social media savant, boasting a brand instantly synonymous with feminism, human rights and the fight against economic inequality.

The prime minister’s reception was hardly less rapturous at home, where his party’s popularity soon exceeded the vote share it secured at the election (39.5 per cent). After the nightmarish ascendancy of Donald Trump a year later, Trudeau’s reputation as a progressive white knight was only enhanced. He swiftly became the darling of magazine covers and op-ed sections on both sides of the Atlantic.

Across much of the Canadian left, these developments were more demoralising than they were uplifting. For one thing, Trudeau’s victory had come at the expense of the left-wing New Democratic Party, which early campaign polls had suggested might form a government for the first time in its history.

Once again, it seemed, the Canadian tradition of the Liberal Party gesturing to the progressive left then governing from technocratic centre right was recurring.

And there was good cause to doubt Trudeau’s progressive credentials long before the election (and his recent calamitous India trip). The son of former Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who led Canada for 15 years, never seemed a likely tribune of transformative social change. A penchant for ideological triangulation (“Too much government is the enemy of freedom and opportunity, but so is too little”) and vapid sloganeering (“We are who we are and Canada is what it is because in our hearts we’ve always known that better is always possible”) had been visible in Trudeau’s leadership style from the outset, as had his …read more

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