Trudeau is no Su­per­man, and nei­ther is Canada

The Delhi News-Record - - OPINION - SHAN­NON GORM­LEY Shan­non Gorm­ley is an Ot­tawa Cit­i­zen global af­fairs colum­nist and free­lance jour­nal­ist.

If Justin Trudeau ought not to have dressed as Su­per­man for Hal­loween, it is only be­cause he wore the cos­tume a lit­tle too well.

When he pulled up his blue hosiery that morn­ing, he may not have re­garded the man in the mir­ror quite as an ex­trater­res­trial hero, but through­out his ten­ure as prime min­is­ter he has made few at­tempts to dis­suade peo­ple from be­liev­ing he was born to save the world. And in­evitably, peo­ple get an­noyed.

This is a gov­ern­ment that is for­ever rip­ping open its shirt to show off su­per­pow­ers it con­spic­u­ously lacks. Canada, like­wise, has no su­per­pow­ers and is no su­per­power.

Un­for­tu­nately, our coun­try’s or­di­nar­i­ness is no se­cret to the world.

There’s no hid­ing the ev­i­dence of Trudeau’s reg­u­lar-per­son sta­tus and Canada’s mid­dle power po­si­tion:

Diplo­macy: When Trudeau vis­ited Global Af­fairs Canada af­ter be­com­ing prime min­is­ter, staff wel­comed him as good cit­i­zens would any su­per­hero: with adu­la­tion. At the time, they looked un­pro­fes­sional. Now they look fool­ish. Stephen Harper may have sab­o­taged the diplo­matic corps through what in­ter­na­tional af­fairs spe­cial­ist Daniel Liver­more calls “gross in­com­pe­tence and ne­glect,” but as he notes, this gov­ern­ment fails to res­cue it from un­filled va­can­cies and a lack of train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

For­eign aid: In 2016, Canada fell to 15th in the rank­ing of in­dus­tri­al­ized coun­tries’ gen­eros­ity and Lib­er­als blamed needy coun­tries for not hav­ing the kind of cul­tures that could be trusted with as­sis­tance. Some for­eign aid ex­perts won­der if Trudeau is merely Harper in dis­guise. For giv­ing less than its fair share, Canada looks miserly. For giv­ing less than its fair share while cham­pi­oning mul­ti­lat­er­al­ist and fem­i­nist val­ues, Canada looks ridicu­lous.

Hu­man rights: The gov­ern­ment al­lowed the sale of weapons to a hu­man rights abuser, pos­si­bly break­ing in­ter­na­tional law in the process, while rhap­sodiz­ing about the im­por­tance of hu­man rights and in­ter­na­tional law. Pro­mo­tion of lib­eral democ­racy: Per­haps you be­lieve Trudeau should have given the pres­i­dent of the United States a dress­ing-down for his var­i­ous dis­plays of sex­ual pre­da­tion, Klan sol­i­dar­ity and in­ept despo­tism; per­haps not. Less dis­putable is that by mak­ing a pub­lic spec­ta­cle of work­ing with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s daugh­ter, Trudeau has done his part to le­git­imize Amer­ica’s tran­si­tion into a nepo-klep­toc­racy.

Trade: Though it’s con­ceiv­able that the gov­ern­ment could ne­go­ti­ate more ef­fec­tively on NAFTA, it can­not ul­ti­mately be faulted for fail­ing to con­vince a lu­natic to be ra­tio­nal. It may, how­ever, be faulted for sac­ri­fic­ing an op­por­tu­nity with Trump to more strongly af­firm the val­ues it read­ily cham­pi­ons when this does not come at a cost, in re­turn for what may very well amount to ab­so­lutely noth­ing.

De­fence: The gov­ern­ment didn’t in­crease the de­fence bud­get soon enough to avoid be­ing scolded by Barack Obama, but did in­crease it just in time to ap­pear to be chas­tened by a scold­ing from Trump. Trump may or may not have in­flu­enced the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion, but the gov­ern­ment looks weaker for not hav­ing made the de­ci­sion ei­ther sooner or not at all.

The prob­lem for Trudeau, and for Canada, is not that the gov­ern­ment has an ap­palling for­eign pol­icy; it is that the gov­ern­ment’s rhetoric about Canada’s po­ten­tial place in the world can’t al­ways mask its in­abil­ity to bring it there. If Canada is to ac­com­plish a frac­tion of what it has sug­gested it will de­liver, it must make greater po­lit­i­cal sac­ri­fices, and do so at the right mo­ments.

Un­til then, Canada re­mains the Clark Kent of the world — if Clark Kent suf­fered from delu­sions that he could bend steel with his bare hands.

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